Under clear blue summer skies, the City of Long Beach hosted the annual Long Island Pride Parade on Sunday, attracting what festival organizers described as the largest crowd to ever attend a Pride event on Long Island.
David Kilmnick, president and CEO of the LGBT Network, which sponsors Long Island Pride activities, estimated that 30,000 people came to watch more than 100 organizations parade down West Broadway. The grand marshalls were several participants of the Stonewall riots, the 50th anniversary of which is on June 28.
“It’s important to be a part of the LGBT community from a younger age and perspective, because when our generation enters the workforce and the voting booths, we get to make the changes we’ve wanted to see since we were kids in middle and high school,” said one student marching with her local GSA, who preferred to remain anonymous.
At opening ceremonies before the parade, Kilmnick welcomed local politicians who marched, including State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
A wide variety of organizations marched to show their support for the LGBT community, with charities like the Red Cross and Planned Parenthood joined by health care providers Northwell Health and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital and major businesses including Target and Walgreens.
Up and down the parade route, there were colorful participants and floats, with enthusiastic volunteers giving out goodies such as whistles, stickers and of course, rainbow flags.
Paradegoers noted that many of the parade participants were LGBT youth, including groups who marched with their high school’s GSA, or Gay-Straight Alliance. Among the GSA groups marching were groups from high schools across Nassau and Suffolk counties, including Long Beach, Oceanside, Uniondale, Copiague, and West Islip.
After the parade concluded the spectators flocked to the Pride Market on the boardwalk, which featured dozens of vendors with a variety of goods to purchase, from pride related flags and apparel, as well as information on health and related services from groups such as Planned Parenthood. Local sports teams including the New York Islanders and New York Mets also had booths, with the Mets promoting the upcoming Pride Night at Citi Field on August 10.
The Pride festivities ended with a concert on the beach, starting with singers including Brian Justin Crum from America’s Got Talent and Ada Vox from American Idol. At 6 p.m., the concert’s headliner, Macy Gray, took the stage to entertain the crowd. Gray is best known for her hit song, “I Try,” which was released in 2000 in the United States and was an international hit.