Jersey Pride celebrated its 23rd annual Pride Parade, Festival, and Rally in Asbury Park, New Jersey, on June 1. Pride is always held on the very first Sunday of June, and the gorgeous weather brought out the largest crowd the organizers had ever seen for it, with Jersey Pride President Laura Pople saying it was the best turnout ever, more than 20,000 strong!
The day was beautiful and clear and Jersey Pride volunteers moved through the crowd in bright orange and bright yellow t-shirts, reminding people to recycle, hydrate, and have a great time. There were more than 120 vendors ranging from organizations and groups that do everything from animal rescue to social networking to vendors of wedding rings, t-shirts, and other giftables, as well as services of all descriptions.
The Parade was the largest so far complete with floats, the Wells Fargo stagecoach, people on ponies, and drag beauties waving from convertibles. There was a color guard from the NJ Leather Family and, of course, it was Dykes on Bikes who lead the Parade down the route–over 40 groups and marching contingents along the 1.1 mile course.
The Rally Stage boasted everything a community could want from MCs Matt Martin and Scott Nevins, who whipped the crowd to a fare thee well, even while masterfully guiding people to retrieve their lost items. Long-time Jersey Pride participation came from bands like Jean Navarr and the brilliant acoustic drumming duo Virago; Josh Zuckerman, who was there showing off his new music; Trance, which gave us “Slave to the Rhythm;” and SONiA of disappear fear, who wowed the crowd with some of our favorites and also brand new releases. Lexi Tellings and her dancing boys brought the temperature up in late afternoon and Chris James got us dancing. Jamie LeRose and her dancing girls raised temperatures of their own, while Hannah and Maggie gave us acoustic cool jams with harmonies as sweet as the sound of the ocean nearby. The best, though, was yet to come.
Thelma Houston has been a dance-diva for 40 years and you can tell by the way she holds the entire audience in the palm of her hand. Supported by her son Rodney, a brilliant performer on his own, Houston took us through her catalog and Motown’s too! She had us “Dancing in the Streets”—the song itself is celebrating its 50th Anniversary!—but when it came down to her most famous hit, “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” she had us all with her, as she worked the stage in a sassy red dress, a tiny powerhouse that could light every light on the boardwalk. The crowd wouldn’t let her go, so she did one more encore, and then her black limo went off into the sunset.
By the time the day was done, and the sun was settling into golden light, limning Convention Hall, the volunteers of Jersey Pride were cleaning up and, already, thoughts of next year were dancing in our heads. Pride is Christma-Hanu-Kwanzaa-kuh and New Year’s Eve all rolled into the biggest and best family reunion ever and Jersey Pride is already planning XXIV.