Long Beach will be filled with rainbow flags when the city welcomes the LGBT community and its supporters to the third annual Pride on the Beach festival June 21-23. The event will feature a performance by Grammy-winning artist Macy Gray in a concert on the beach after the 29th annual Long Island Pride Parade.
The three-day event is part of a regional celebration of LGBT Pride Month, with events across the state. It coincides with events in New York City, including NYC Pride and WorldPride, an international celebration of the LGBT Pride movement that will be held in the U.S. for the first time — with Long Island as its first stop.
“It’s great for the City of Long Beach, and it’s great for Long Island to hold Long Island Pride here in Long Beach,” City Council President Anthony Eramo said. “I think Long Beach is a very diverse community, and we celebrate everybody — there’s no other place on Long Island that Long Island Pride should be held.”
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall uprising, when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. The uprising was a turning point for the gay rights movement in the U.S. and around the world, and this year’s Manhattan-based events are being called Stonewall 50. The celebration is expected to draw millions to the tristate area, according to David Kilmnick, the LGBT Network’s chief executive officer and a co-founder of the Long Island Pride parade.
“It’s a special year, because it’s the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, which was the birth of the modern gay rights movement,” Kilmnick said. “We have an opportunity to showcase Long Island pride and the beaches of Long Beach.”
The Stonewall anniversary ties in with this year’s theme of “Looking Back, Loving forward,” representing 50 years of activism, progress and change, Kilmnick added.
In December, the New York State Regional Economic Development Council awarded the LGBT Network a $375,000 grant to host Pride on the Beach. The funds will help produce and market the festival, according to officials.
Last year’s event attracted more than 30,000 people from around the country, organizers said. This year it will feature a number of events, including a 5K run, a Shabbat service and the parade, which is scheduled for Sunday, June 23, at noon on Broadway, from Lafayette to Long Beach Boulevard.
In addition to Gray, the beach concert will feature “America’s Got Talent’s” Brian Justin Crum, Rob Base, Sweet Sensation, “American Idol’s” ADA Vox and “The Voice’s” Rosa Laricchiuta. And the festival’s second annual Pride Pet Parade will feature more than 150 pets, according to Kilmnick.
Event organizers expect the festival to attract larger crowds than last year, and to generate revenue for local businesses. In the Taste of Long Beach event, participating bars, restaurants and other establishments will offer specials and discounts.
“Whether it’s restaurants, gift shops, food trucks and all different businesses in Long Beach, they should experience increased sales,” Kilmnick said. “It’s important for businesses to market themselves and hang rainbow banners outside their business, so folks know they’re a part of Pride.”
Long Island Pride has grown into the second-largest LGBT Pride celebration in the tristate area, second only to New York City’s event, Kilmnick said. I Love NY, Bethpage Federal Credit Union and TD Bank are a few of the sponsors.
With the city expected to attract thousands of visitors, Eramo said that the Long Beach Police Department would work with other law enforcement agencies during the event. “We take the security of our residents and our visitors very seriously — it’s our No. 1 priority for our administration,” Eramo said. “There will be additional police and additional private security on the beach and at the event.”
“We always make sure that the security measures are in place, and that there’s the highest level of protection,” Kilmnick said. “I think there’s no safer place than Pride, because we take extra precautions.”
Though most Long Beach residents have welcomed the event, the LGBT Network has faced opposition, and even acts of hate, in other communities. Last month, a poster at the Bellmore Long Island Rail Road Station advertising Pride on the Beach was torn down, the third act of vandalism against the LGBT Network in two months. At a news conference with Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen and Nassau County Police Deputy Commissioner Kevin Smith, Kilmnick called the incident an act of hatred.
The Village of Patchogue received an anonymous letter in April from residents who opposed the village’s proposal to use its Alive After Five Street fair, an event in which the LGBT Network participates, to promote the LGBT community. The letter stated, “This travesty must not move forward and be allowed to disgrace the Village of Patchogue. If it does, there will be trouble for sure and a lawsuit to allow a straight pride event.”
The letter drew criticism from the community and a response from Kilmnick on Twitter. “Received another anonymous hate letter threatening the LGBT Network NY and LI Pride events,” he wrote. “Intent is to instill fear — it’s not. We are out there fiercer than ever before.”