Last October’s Hurricane Sandy pounded New Jersey, and most especially the Jersey Shore. Route 35 was closed for weeks due to the damage in the shore area and most of the town of Mantaloking had to be razed. But did this stop Asbury Park from renewing its recently renovated boardwalk? Did Sandy prevent restaurants and homes from repairing themselves and opening for business? Did Sandy keep Jersey Pride, Inc. from celebrating our 22nd annual Pride Celebration, Rally and Parade–NO!
The weekend was forecast for iffy weather and, ultimately, June saw record rainfalls for the entire state. June 1 was when the bulk of the set up took place, though the planning for this event that draws more than 25,000 people is a year-round prospect. Snow fencing was going up, the tent company was there and, most important, the port-a-johns were in place. After a full day in the broiling sun, Pride volunteers treated sunburn and slept the sleep of the righteous, visions of sunshine dancing in our heads.
June 2 dawned clear and bright and flurries of vendors set up their wares, groups and organizations popped up their tents and arranged their information, and Dykes on Bikes, marching bands, and groups like Gay Activist Alliance of Morris County (GAAMC), New Jersey’s oldest continually running activist organization, got their contingents together. This year, GAAMC was mentoring its youth group, Rainbow Café, as many of the young marchers were experiencing their first ever parade!
The Parade was amazing and the colorful groups and vehicles were a sight to behold, coming across the bridge on Grand Avenue, and proceeding down Sunset Avenue into the Rally and Festival Area. Bank of America was the sponsor of the stage that would hold such a luminary as Fire Island phenom Porsche as the hardest working MC. Porsche presided over the largest number of lost items in a single Jersey Pride event, all but two going back to their owners. If only Porsche played for the Mets …. The opening act on the stage was the dazzling Show Choir from Paper Mill Playhouse, under the direction of Shayne Miller, and was such a hit with the Choir members themselves, that one member came out at the event! There was a parade of talent continuing on the stage with Alex Newell, Unique from “Glee;” rap and hip hop duo God-dess and She; Adam Barta; and Kathy “Sister” Sledge, with her family, as she serenaded us with “We Are Family,” right before the heavens opened up and cleared away the final Pride attendees.
Speaking of Family, Jersey Pride’s volunteers include not only stalwart regulars but also friends from other Pride organizations, including the Pride Network, Heritage of Pride from New York City, Brooklyn Pride, and many dedicated people who are not only there to help with the exciting work, but also the clean up when we roll up the snow fencing in the rain, as we did on June 3. Experience Pride by attending any and all of the events that you can. Know Pride by rolling up your sleeves and making it happen. Want to help a smaller Pride like Jersey Pride? Contact me via Facebook and I’ll put you in the heart of the community. I’ll see you in Asbury Park!