Celebrating Pride in the time of COVID-19

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New Hope Celebrates raised its 25-foot Rainbow Equality flag
New Hope Celebrates Board still raised its 25-foot Rainbow Equality flag atop the Delaware House on May 8, 2020 in keeping with a long-standing tradition.

New Jersey festivals are cancelled or postponed

Spring has sprung, the daytime temperatures warming to a point that allows minds to wander ahead, making plans for fun in the sun as the summer rolls in. Memorial Day is the unofficial herald of summer arriving, particularly down the Jersey shore, and it also signifies that LGBTQ Pride season is upon us.

Jersey City, NJ LGBT Pride 2018 Stage crowd.
Jersey City, NJ LGBT Pride 2018 Stage crowd. Photo by Tomato Pena and Zoltan Suhay

But this year there will be no festival in Asbury Park, no vendors hawking rainbow wares in Maplewood. The streets of New York will be empty of rainbow-clad marchers and spectators. The COVID-19 virus has wreaked absolute havoc on everyday life, putting millions out of work, canceling events in droves, and obliterating vacation plans. The hope is that the United States will be out from under the strange hold COVID has on us by this fall. Many LGBTQ festivals and other major events are re-scheduling to this October.

Pride is normally celebrated in June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969. In this case, the move to October has its own significance because it is LGBT History Month, celebrated in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Hungary, Australia, Brazil, Greenland, and Berlin, Germany.

The first of area Pride festivals to cancel their event this year out of an abundance of caution was New Hope Celebrates. Though New Hope is in the title, the river-spanning celebration includes neighboring Lambertville, with a parade that winds its way through both towns. Normally held in the latter part of May, the annual event has been postponed to Saturday, October 10, which is the day before National Coming Out Day.

Though the decision had already been made to postpone the festival, the New Hope Celebrates Board still raised its 25-foot Rainbow Equality flag atop the Delaware House on May 8 in keeping with a long-standing tradition. The New Hope building is hard to miss as you come across the bridge from Lambertville. It stands just to the right at the end of the bridge and houses a Starbucks.

The stage at Jersey LGBTI Pride in Asbury Park in 2015
The stage at Jersey LGBTI Pride in Asbury Park in 2015

“We are proud of our community and we encourage local businesses, restaurants, and shops to display your NHC flags and/or Pride flags for May and June”, Matt Hanson, NHC President, said. “You can’t have rainbows without rain and eventually this ’COVID rain’ will slow and we can be together again.”

To the east and down the coast a bit from New Hope and Lambertville, New Jersey’s largest Pride festival is also making the move to October. Asbury Park will lie dormant in June with Pride being moved to Sunday, October 11, National Coming Out Day. Though the date has changed—and the leaves may very well have by then–the events slated for the celebration will remain the same. A parade will wind its way through Asbury Park, terminating at the fair grounds in front of the Convention Center for a festival full of vendors, food stands, and entertainment. The festival usually attracts over 20,000 in June to the Jersey shore town. This October it will run from noon to 7 p.m.

“We elected to postpone pride, rather than cancel it outright, believing that by doing so we offer a message of hope to the LGBTQ community: we will come out from the pandemic, and we will once again come together—joyfully, fabulously, in celebration of Pride,” Laura Pople, president of Jersey Pride, Inc., said in a statement.

North Jersey Pride, taking place in Maplewood each June, has also been postponed. The new date will be Sunday, September 13. It will take place at the Memorial Park Amphitheater. It will be the ninth year for the celebration, which attracts over 7,000 people. The festival is free of charge and features vendors, food stands, performers, and a kids’ zone.

AAOGC float at Newark Gay Pride in 2016
The AAOGC float at Newark Gay Pride in 2016

Newark Pride is scheduled for Sunday, July 19. Recently a few events were canceled or went virtual on the organization’s facebook page. At press time there is no information on the festival’s 15th Anniversary except to say that it is still on schedule. Please check the website in late June or early July for possible updates.

Jersey City Pride is scheduled for Saturday, August 22. The event attracts over 10,000 annually and is the second largest LGBTQ Pride in the Garden State. “After consulting with community leaders, city officials, business owners and community members we have determined that it is too early to postpone the festival at this time,” said organizers. They are being hopeful the festival will be able to proceed as scheduled. If it needs to be postponed, organizers said it will be postponed until 2021.

South Jersey Pride is another Pride event not disrupted—yet—by the COVID-19 quarantine directives. Normally held in September, this event is a literal laid-back day at the park. Held at Cherry Hill’s Cooper River Park, it will take place on Sunday, September 13 from noon to 6 p.m. This year’s theme is #YouAreIncluded. The celebration is a smaller scale than the ones in New Hope, Asbury Park, Maplewood, or Jersey City—but emphasizes inclusion and anti-bullying.

New Hope Celebrates: newhopecelebrates.com
Jersey Pride: Jerseypride.org
North Jersey Pride: northjerseypride.org
Newark Pride: newarkpride.org
Jersey City Pride: jerseycitypride.com
South Jersey Pride: jerseygaypride.com