By RICHARD VIRGILIO
A celebration of diversity was found at the end of all the rainbows on Sun., June 4 at the 26th Annual GLBTQ Pride Parade and Festival in Asbury Park.
“More than ever, this is an all-inclusive event, GLBT A to Z,” said George Geier of Toms River. “We are here for the rights of women, trans, minorities, gays, everyone who needs a voice or may feel forgotten, lonely or left out.”
Cheering crowds waving rainbow flags and wearing big smiles lined Cookman Avenue, Grand Avenue and Sunset Avenue as the hour-long parade made its way to the festival grounds in Bradley Park.
“It’s important we don’t take any freedom for granted,” said Tina Cesario of Wanamassa, who marched with her wife and two children. “We had a wake-up call in November. Our family is here to help make sure future GLBTQ generations can always lean on each other and we never fall back.”
Organizers reported a record 140 percent increase from 2016 in registered participants. The annual GLBTQ parade is considered the largest in the state.
“Our 26th parade is bigger and more important in every way,” said Laura Pople, event organizer. “I’ve seen more first-time attendee faces than I have in a long time. People have told me they were compelled to come together and march this year for the first time because of the political climate. This was an outlet to make a statement and celebrate. We will not be marginalized.”
The 26th annual parade was also the largest gathering of the state’s transgender community.
“Many trans people here are new and trying to understand themselves and the cisgender world around them,” said Nicole Brownstein, president of the NJ Pride Center. “We hope coming here helps our kids stand out less and creates an open conversation.”
First-time parade attendee Steve Lundy of Barnegat said, “I’m marching to support my trans son Anthony. Like every parent I want my son to live a happy, fulfilled life always knowing he is loved.”
Politicians including US Representative Frank Pallone, US Senator Cory Booker, New Jersey Senate candidate Vin Gopal and the Asbury Park City Council marched alongside more than 70 parade contingencies including Trinity Church, Vintage Subs, Georgie’s Bar, Hotel Tides, Asbury Park School District, She-Haul Motorcycle Transport, Atlantic City, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Allstate New Jersey, NJ Natural Gas, PFLAG, BusForProgress.org and Monmouth County Democrats.
“It was important for the City Council to march in the parade to reaffirm that all are welcome in Asbury Park,” said Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn. “Our city will always be a safe space for the GLBTQ-plus community. We welcome you with open arms here.”