By DIEGO CAGARA
ALBANY — A multitude of rainbow flags, unashamedly-effervescent crowds and polychromatic balloons altogether adorned Washington Park on Sunday, June 11, where the 2017 Capital Pride Parade and Festival occurred, which celebrated the LGBTQ community.
“Our annual celebration of PRIDE is just one way we come together and hold our heads high and celebrate our lives,” wrote Martha Harvey, the CEO and executive director of the Pride Center of the Capital Region, in a statement earlier this month. “Every year at this time we have an opportunity to recommit to the fight and the conviction that we will never go back into the shadows.”
Despite scorching temperatures, LGBTQ members and allies nevertheless attended and cheered on when the parade, which commenced at noon, travelled down Lark and State Streets, Madison Avenue and into Washington Park. Sponsored by Bank of America, members of the parade gave out souvenirs like pride wristbands, rulers and even candy. The parade comprised of members, the overall events’ sponsors and supportive organizations like Albany’s Gay Men’s Chorus, Capital Pride Singers and The Alt.
Following the parade, the festival, sponsored by O’Connell & Aronowitz, Attorneys at Law, officially began one hour later inside Washington Park which was populated by sponsor tents and food vendors.
“From Stonewall to Niagara Falls, we in New York state have led this country and indeed the world in recognizing the needs of lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and queer individuals,” said Gwen Wright, executive director of the state Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, to thunderous applause. “We are in the forefront, from the passage of marriage equality to the prohibition of employment discrimination for transgenders.”
On behalf of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, she also added that June has been proclaimed as LGBTQ Month this year.
Harvey, who herself attended the events, specifically thanked all the sponsors as well as Parade Chair Ed Davis and Festival Chair Corey Polesel, the latter two having organized Capital Pride events for a decade now.
A precautionary tone emerged when other speakers onstage warned that the public needs to “stay vigil because of the president we have on the national level. We’ve made so much ground but we need to continue to go forward, not back, and we can only do that if everyone here gets out and vote and exercise the freedom that we have.”
There was also security throughout the parade and festival but nothing dangerous was reported.
Messages of unity, love and support permeated the park, as numerous people brought homemade posters while the speakers collectively reminded the public that it was the day right before the first anniversary of the shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub at Orlando, Fla., on June 12, 2016. Forty-nine civilians were murdered, making it the worst terrorist attack in the county since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Live entertainment was provided onstage which included performances by singer Betty Who, Grammy Award-nominated R&B singer Maxine Nightingale, party band Grand Central Station and the Drag Revue—Empress Champagne, Jacqueline Frost and Philly Pina. Original songs and covers of anthemic musical numbers—like Lady Gaga’s Superbowl halftime show from earlier this year, Bruno Mars’ catchy single “24K Magic”, Madonna’s “Vogue” and Gloria Gaynor’s empowering “I Will Survive”—perpetuated the overall positive and celebratory themes of the festival.
The Capital Pride Parade and Festival are all a part of a series of scheduled events through June 24 by the Capital Pride Center for Pride Month. More information is available on their website.