While the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center in Kingston is clearly the nerve center in the region for events and issues of special interest to the gay and lesbian community, the movement’s mid-Hudson heart must be said to lie in New Paltz. The pioneering (if not lastingly legal) same-sex weddings performed there by Village mayor Jason West in February 2004 took on historic import for upstaters comparable to that of the 1969 Stonewall Riots for gay denizens of New York City. And happily, no heads were bashed in, although a lengthy court battle followed.
The first Pride March in the mid-Hudson Valley, then called New Paltz Pride and drawing 1,000 participants, was inspired by the New Paltz weddings (not to mention the backlash against them, including anti-gay protestors bused in by the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas). So it’s absolutely fitting that Hudson Valley LGBTQ Pride Week, now in progress, should have dual epicenters in New Paltz and Kingston.
The annual Pride Week celebration kicked off this past Tuesday with a series of film screenings and other events at the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center. You may still be able to catch a few of the weekday happenings if you’re reading this issue of Almanac hot off the presses: On Wednesday, May 29 at 7 p.m., there’s a sneak peak premiere of Chris/Tina, a new TV series with a transgendered protagonist, featuring a question-and-answer session via Skype with producer/director Jorge Ortiz. On Thursday, May 30 at 7 p.m. there’ll be a screening of the British coming-out story Beautiful Thing. And on Friday, May 31 at 7 p.m., pioneering “womyn’s music” star Alix Dobkin will host the True Colors Open Mic.
Saturday, June 1 is designated Pride Eve, when the LGBTQ Community Center throws a volunteer appreciation party from 5 to 7 p.m. But the action peaks on Sunday, June 2 in New Paltz, when the Pride March, which typically attracts about 2,500 participants, begins with a rally at 12 noon at the New Paltz Middle School. The line of march will step off at 1 p.m. to head down Main Street, then hang a left at Plattekill Avenue toward Hasbrouck Park, where the Pride Festival will continue until 4 p.m. The theme for the ninth annual event will be “Celebrating Where It All Began.”
The grand marshals for the 2013 Hudson Valley LGBTQ Pride March will be Denise Jelley, who spearheaded the first New Paltz LGBTQ Pride March in 2005, and Francena Amparo, an openly lesbian elected official and the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Dutchess County legislature, representing the 14th District. Francena’s work has helped build equality in such areas as access to health care, enterprise development and legal rights.
“This year’s grand marshals both demonstrate that a person thinking and taking action locally can change lives,” said Vanessa Shelmandine, project director at the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center. “Denise chose New Paltz for the first Pride March in 2005 to celebrate mayor Jason West’s first same-sex marriages. Francena uses her base in Wappingers to make a difference throughout Dutchess County.”
The afternoon’s post-parade festivities at Hasbrouck Park, which go on rain or shine under the big tent, will include live music from performers including singer/songwriter Pamela Means and rock group Sister Funk. There will also be food and other vendors and a youth booth with activities and resources for kids and teens.
For those who can’t get enough celebrating in these days of legal same-sex marriage in New York State (finally!), Joe’s East West in uptown New Paltz will be hosting the famed annual Party-after-Pride from 4 to 8 p.m. It’s a dancing-friendly venue, and a live deejay will be on hand. There’s a $15 cover charge for the party.
For more information about the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Pride March and Festival, call (845) 331-5300 or visit www.lgbtqcenter.org.
Hudson Valley LGBTQ Pride Week, May 28-June 1, various evening events, Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center, 300 Wall Street, Kingston. Sunday, June 2 events, all in New Paltz: Pride Rally & March, 12 noon, free, New Paltz Middle School, 2 South Manheim Boulevard; Pride Festival, 1-4 p.m., free, Hasbrouck Park, Mohonk/Tricor Avenues; Party-after-Pride, 4-8 p.m., $15, Joe’s East West, 254 Main Street. (845) 331-5300, www.lgbtqcenter.org.