Central New York’s LGBTQ community and its allies will fill Syracuse’s inner harbor this Saturday, June 20 for the annual CNY Pride Festival. This year’s theme, “Celebrating the colors of our past, creating the pride of our future,” will show its true colors during the numerous events taking place throughout the week, as well as the multiple performances at the Festival.
Inclusivity has been a huge factor in the planning of this year’s Pride Festival. Due to the lesbian community feeling a bit under appreciated in years past, the Pride Festival has worked hard to incorporate their essence into more events this year by having not only drag queens perform throughout the day, but drag kings as well.
The addition of a “hometown stage,” where local acts that are partial to performing at smaller venues, has been added, where artists will be able to showcase their talents and pride while adding local flare.
“We’ve been expanding and changing the nature of the Pride events rather consistently over the last five or six years,” said Bruce Carter, President of CNY Pride.
A fan-favorite event during Pride Week leading up to the big festival is the Pride Interfaith Service, which takes place at 7 p.m. on June 16 at First English Lutheran Church. Over 20 different religious leaders from differing congregations throughout the city will gather to lead worship services.
“We have folks who are non-gay and lesbian members of the congregations who are participating in the services,” Carter said.
Afterwards, there are receptions for the attendees, where refreshments will be provided.
“It’s not just the Gay and Lesbian Baptist Association that’s doing this,” Carter said. “Just folks within the congregation that are being accepting.”
The Catholic faith, Islam, various Protestant churches, synagogues, and Buddhist are only a handful of religions that will be represented. A flag raising, and movie night will also be held this week leading up to the festival.
“We almost squeezed in another event during the week,” Carter said. “But for the folks that come, we’d rather have a larger audience at some of the events than have a bunch of small events.”
The local events during Pride Week aren’t the only things to mark your calendars for. The main event at inner harbor will include drag queens, drag kings, musical artists, food, drinks and a whole lot of pride. Educational aspects have also been pumped into Pride, along side the entertainment.
“We recommend that people get informed,” Carter said. “We’ll be doing some HIV education and handing out condoms. There are a variety of things that go on at the festival, aside from people going and watching the bands.”
This year’s MC, SALT Award-winner and Rupaul’s Drag race hopeful, Jimmy Wachter, will be hosting the five-hour event dressed as Barbra Streisand, while also doing some of his other impressions along the way. Wachter co-wrote the SALT award winning show Colour Me Streisand in 2008, but has been impersonating Streisand since the age of 12.
“I will be introducing the drag queen and king performances on the stage from 1-2 p.m. I hear we have an awesome lineup and a special guest,” Wachter said.
This is Wachter’s first year participating in CNY Pride, though he has attended in years past.
“I don’t know what to expect being a host. I have never done anything of this magnitude,” Wachter said. “My biggest audience was about 200, so it’s sort of a nail biter for me, and Barbara has some long nails to bite!”
Though Wachter will be conquering some firsts in his career at CNY Pride, his entertainment value will cease to suffer.
“I want everyone to just enjoy themselves and be courteous to others,” Wachter said. “My job is to entertain and that’s what I’m going to do. It’s a celebration of ourselves and we will all celebrate together.”
Children are also more than welcome to join in the festivities. Contracts are set up with all entertainers, which require their acts to be family friendly, so everyone, young or old, may enjoy them.
“The Rainbow Family Alliance is sponsoring our children’s area, so we do have a specific area set up for children,” Carter said.
Though the bulk of Pride attendees are in their 20s and 30s, the festival is starting to see an increase in gay and lesbian families, many of which include children.
If you’d like to volunteer for CNY Pride, there is still time. The event is entirely volunteer run and Pride Week events are donation based.
“Nobody is making any money off of this work,” Carter said. “They’re all people who are strongly in favor of encouraging this kind of activity and the availability of this kind of activity for folks in Syracuse.”
The atmosphere of Pride is one of acceptance and individuality, which many Pride-goers feel instantly.
“Every year we have people who say, ‘this was my first time going to a Pride event, I’ve been closeted or I’ve never come out to anyone before and I felt safe and comfortable attending this event,'” Carter said. “That’s the kind of atmosphere we want to create, where people can feel that they’re safe.”
Whether LGBTQ, questioning or an ally, Pride aims to keep its guests feeling free and euphoric and able to be themselves.
“Pride Fest is what you make of it. A time to socialize and have a wonderful time. We are a unity. It’s up to everyone there to act cordially,” Wachter said.
“What the festival does is create an atmosphere where people can feel good about themselves as human beings, not feel special, that’s not the idea, but to be proud of themselves as human beings and fully participating members of our greater society. That’s what I want people to leave with. With confidence, with self-assurance and with a belief of themselves as people regardless of their political affiliation or religious feelings or anything else that they might have, I want everyone who leaves here to feel valued as human beings and as a member of our society.” — Bruce Carter, CNY Pride President
Pride Week Schedule:
Pride Interfaith Service: Tuesday, June 16, 2015, 7 p.m. First English Lutheran Church, 501 James St., Corner of Townsend Street Syracuse, New York