The forecast was dire for the weekend of Jersey Pride, always held the first Sunday in June in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Clouds, rain, more clouds were on the horizon and it looked like the Perfect Day might be a bit less so. Lo and behold, however, Friday afternoon, June 1, when setup began, was sunny and, in alternation, cool and warm, then moist, as a seaside fog tiptoed in from the ocean in late afternoon. Jersey Pride folks were already visiting local bars and restaurants to drop off copies of the event magazine, The Perfect Day.
It takes a lot to set up Bradley and Atlantic Parks, those most immediately adjacent to the iconic Convention Hall and beautiful beach. Months in advance, we sought permits and, while Jersey Pride, Inc. has been producing this event since before the Asbury Park renaissance, it is an annual process, as resources and needed items are discussed.
On Saturday, June 2, the tent company came to set up the tents that would house various services, vendors, and even the AIDS Memorial Quilt, only sections of which are on display these days, due to the tremendous size of the collection commemorating those lost. The epidemic continues today, after more than 35 years. A lost generation is mourned by those of us who will never forget.
Saturday’s sunshine lasted throughout the day, while we assembled flags and set up trash and recycling cans were set up, and people enjoyed the natural beauty of the Jersey shore with new friends. Many volunteers returning from last year had a chance to catch up and we gathered friends from as far away as Brooklyn and Hawaii! Neighboring Prides volunteer for Jersey Pride as well, and we were with them, in a family of Pride in our region that stretches from Washington, D.C. to Maine. On Saturday night, Jersey Pride was a presence at House of Independents, a local concert venue, and Georgie’s, one of the oldest LGBTQ bars at the shore, selling wrist bands that would grant patrons swift entry into the Rally and the vendors’ area the next morning.
Sunday, June 3 was a rarity, with the dawn gray and cold, and misty as only the shore can be. Add in gale force gusts of wind and it made setup for the stage crew and the vendors something with which to be reckoned. Despite an early squall that moved through almost as quickly as the winds, the cool day couldn’t dampen the spirts of the 20,000 people who were there! The one and only Porsche emceed the magnificent line up, with friends Victoria DuPuis and David, and what a day we had! Everything you would possibly want in a Rally was there–Governor Phil Murphy graced our stage and, in just a bit more than 200 days, he’s already changed New Jersey for the good! Senators Robert Menendez and Corey Booker were on hand, and Corey is the King of the Selfie. We had local politicians and a guiding light of transactivism, Babs Casbar Siperstein, who has been at every one of Jersey Pride’s 27 celebrations so far. It’s not Pride without Babs and seeing her there was amazing. There is a law named in her honor currently awaiting action by the Senate that will require the State of NJ to amend a person’s name and gender on their birth certificate. This was vetoed twice by Governor Christie, but the winds of change are blowing. Around these powerhouses, we folded in Jessica Hakim, who gave us a sparkling Star Spangled Banner and a superb acoustic set to start the day. In quick succession, a bevy of the political change makers in New Jersey followed, in a show of great timing, since the NJ Primary was happening a few days hence—and perhaps this is why there was a 74% higher turnout for a primary this year; singer songwriter Ava Della Pietra, who, at 12 years old, reminds us of another Electric Youth, the delightful Jacob St. Aubin, the soulful Tauree with his guitarist John. But that wasn’t enough! Friday Nite Specials, a troupe of “Rocky Horror” performers, got the crowd on their feet and guitarist and singer Liz Graham brought us to a different place. Jersey shore fave Josh Zuckerman kicked it and dance and rap star Tutt Jones and his dancers were thrilling. The band and dancers Alus were part of a perfect set, which included Corey TuT, who has been performing to throngs and had us on our feet again. Heather Mae reminded each of us that “I Am Enough,” and her vibrant keyboard stylings and dynamic humor had us in the palm of her hand. We had Felipe Rose of the Village People, who is out with a fabulous new band, and the finale of the day were Lane and Sophie of La Bouche, who gave a brilliant mini-concert with all of our favorites that garnered new fans, hearing these songs for the first time.
The wind came back at the end of the day, and this time there wasn’t a squall–it became full on rain! I gathered the flag, satisfied that our work was done—until Monday morning, June 4, when we would clean the fields and put it all away.
Next year, volunteer with Jersey Pride and see Pride from the inside! You’ll become part of a family and create events and memories. It’s the first Sunday in June, y’all! See you in Asbury Park!