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Marching with pride in Long Beach

Parade, beach concert and other events part of regional celebrations

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“It’s really awesome to be able to celebrate right here in our hometown on the beach,” said Jess Thurman, of Barrier Island CrossFit in Long Beach, who noted the significance of the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall uprising. “We had so many cool things going on, it’s amazing that we can all come together. It’s important to remember people who fought for our rights and didn’t have the opportunities that we do. To be able to celebrate 50 years after Stonewall, it’s nice to honor the people that fought for us — we didn’t get here on our own, people had to speak up.”

Thurman was among the thousands who turned out for 29th annual Long Island Pride Parade on Sunday, part of the city’s three-day Pride on the Beach festival June 21-23 that marked the anniversary of Stonewall, considered a turning point in the gay rights movements.

Long Beach was filled with rainbow flags in a show of support for the LGBT community, 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.

The parade was followed by a beach concert that featured acts like Grammy Award-winning artist Macy Gray, Rob Base, Sweet Sensation, “The Voice’s” Rosa Laricchiuta and Kayla Rae. The boardwalk was also filled with many vendors who displayed their support for the LGBT community, and the event also featured a 5K run, the 2nd annual Pride Pet Parade and many other activities.

This year’s grand marshals included State Sen. Brad Holyman, members of the original Stonewall Uprising— activists Kurt Kelly, Tree Sequoia, Stacy Lentz, Jay Toole and Lucian Truscott — and Long Beach’s popular “Couch on Wheels,” made up of a group of local residents.

The parade started on Lafayette Boulevard and ended at Long Beach Boulevard. Among those who marched was American Red Cross, Planned Parenthood, Northwell Health, South Nassau Communities Hospital, St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, Harley Davidson of Nassau County, the LGBT Network — and their president and chief executive officer, David Kilmnick — along with many elected officials.

“We are marching not only for what happened 50 years ago, which is very important, but we’re marching for what needs the next 50 years,” Kilmnick said during a speech at the parade.

City Council President Anthony Eramo noted all the different groups who marched in the parade, ranging from Long Beach High School’s Gay Straight Alliance to the Nassau County Police Department.

“The turnout is great,” Eramo said. “I think Long Island today, in Long Beach, is saying love always wins, diversity is our strength, and it doesn’t matter who you are or what you are, that we’re all one.”

Eramo added that a boil-water alert, which went into effect last Friday after a strain of E. coli was detected in the city’s water system, did not have a big impact on turnout. Part of the event included a Taste of Long Beach, with participating bars and restaurants and offering specials.

“I don’t think it really impacted people coming out here — the city was handing out water on the parade route; everyone brought water,” he added. “My concern is for the restaurants, but most restaurants did appear to have made alternate plans to get ice, rinse their vegetables and produce. I hope everyone goes out and visits the restaurants and supports them.”

Baldwin resident Cori Miller, who attended the parade with her girlfriend, Meta Randazzo, said that while the LGBT community has come a long way since Stonewall, it was important to continue to show support, “Especially with what’s been going on politically in these times.” She added that she was recently harassed in midtown Manhattan.

“That has never happened to me before,” Miller said. “Everyone has a right to love who they want.”

Miller also lauded local school and community groups for participating in the march.

“I think the more people that come out, the more allies you have, and it just makes you feel good about who you are,” Miller said. “It’s important for kids to feel that they have a place, and feel like they have a place to shine and be who they are.”