Aug. 18 Hudson Pride in Jersey City Is on, Without Parade
On August 18, New Jersey’s gay community will gather at the waterfront in Jersey City for Hudson Pride. Despite the disbanding of the group that formerly organized the event, Hudson Pride Connections Center stepped in to make sure the annual festival would still be held at Exchange Place, although without the traditional parade.
"The festival has always been the centerpiece of the Pride festivities in Hudson County. So we’re maintaining the heart and soul of the event, even without the parade," said organizer Liz Edman. "People come to the festival itself, and usually the parade leads to it, but the festival is what’s always been the draw. We’ve worked hard to maintain that."
Jersey City Lesbian and Gay Outreach had served as the lead organizer of the annual Pride events, holding a large parade that led up to the festival at the Jersey waterfront, with the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline. But last year, that group disbanded, leaving Hudson Pride’s fate up to the HPCC. At the time, that group was also in flux, as HPCC Executive Director Nancy Caamaño had stepped down at the end of October, leaving Jonathan Lucas to serve as interim executive director.
"When JCLGO disbanded, they asked us to take over management of the festival," Lucas told EDGE. "We were determined to do something for our first year, but we are also trying to hire a new executive director, and didn’t have the bandwidth to include both aspects. So this year, we are not doing a parade; we thought it was in our best interest to just work to pull off the festival."
Vendors, local businesses and food kiosks will be represented, as well as community non-profits and LGBT organizations. Entertainers include Harmonica Sunbeam, Lady Marisa, Andrea Oz, the Aster Pheonyx Project, singers Cheryl and JaVonne, Damien Crawford, Divinity Banks, Dujuana Sharese and the Plush Interior, Lynn Womble, MEG and Mykel.
"I’m really happy at the fact that so many performers are willing to donate their time," said Hudson Pride Entertainment Co-Chair Darryl Hill. "We are appreciative to have such a variety of performers; more applied than we had the time for. We actually ask performers to wait two years after performing before applying again, to try to give everyone a chance. We don’t discriminate against people based whether they top the charts."
With the stunning Manhattan vista as a backdrop, the stage will serve up a bevy of wonderful performers, a short roster of speakers and some public officials. Edman, who is an Episcopal priest, is also planning a glitter blessing for all those interested.
"We’ll invite people who want to get blessed to come toward the stage, where a handful of us will toss glitter on the crowd as I do the blessing. It will be non-denominational, recognizing the sacredness of queer identity, blessing and celebrating it," said Edman. "I’m trying to make sure the people getting blessed have their eyes closed so they don’t get glitter in them."
Edman conceded that the festival depends on the work of a lot of volunteers donating their time and energy to make it happen, but didn’t rule out the idea that in the future, the parade will be reincorporated into Hudson Pride events.
"Back in February we looked at our resources, and it was clear that the best use was to focus on the festival. At that point, there wasn’t anyone volunteering to put in the time and energy to make it happen. So we focused on the festival instead," said Edman. "But if people want to have the parade, all that takes is someone stepping up and saying they want to coordinate it. Having financial resources to do that is a tremendous help, so if people want to donate, we would love that."
The increasing popularity of the Hudson Pride festival has become a bellwether for the growing LGBT community in the area, both serving to draw people to Jersey City, and to mobilize the LGBT community already living there.
"There is no question that the LGBT community has become more visible in Hudson County. Jersey City itself has become something of a destination as a place to live for LGBT people in the greater New York metropolitan area," said Edman. "It has really taken off in the past few years. So the Pride festival itself certainly benefits from our presence, and it also contributes to the sense that Hudson Pride serves a thriving LGBT community."
For a complete listing of Pride events, visit http://hudsonpride.org