By Olivia Booth

The 26th annual Long Island Pride festival this weekend will be its last in Huntington before moving to Long Beach and expanding into a weekend-long LGBT celebration next year, organizers announced Thursday.

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LI Pride fest, which typically includes live music, a fair and parade—this year’s parade was canceled, but the concert and fair will go on—next year will feature additional festivities such as a 5K run on the boardwalk, a softball tournament, surfing lessons, beach volleyball, pride brunch and more.

“We’re going to have a parade that is bigger than it ever was in the 26 years, we’re going to have a marching band, and a lot of other events,” David Kilmnick, executive director of the Long Island LGBT Network, told reporters during a news conference on the Long Beach boardwalk. “Long Island Pride will be the first pride on the beach in the entire country. That is quite a feat!”

This development highlights just how far the LGBT community has come on LI since advocates sued for the right to march in a local parade after being turned down by local towns three decades ago before the Huntington event debuted, drawing thousands.

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A lot has changed since then to make the LGBT community more socially accepted. Most notably, New York State passed the Marriage Equality Act in 2011 and last year, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage nationwide. Although there is still prejudice to overcome, such as the bomb threat that the Huntington gay pride parade received three years ago.

Anthony Eramo, the vice president of the Long Beach city council, said in a statement that the City by the Sea is “lucky to host what is sure to be a great event” next year.

“The Long Island Pride Weekend is a great opportunity for families all across Long Island to celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community that has contributed so much to make Long Island such a great place to live,” Eramo said.

This weekend’s LI Pride fest, which alternative rock group 10,000 Maniacs will headline, is scheduled for 12-5 p.m. Saturday, June 11 at Heckscher Park in Huntington. Next year’s event is slated for June 9-11. Visit LIPRIDE.org for more information.

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