Despite the ninety-plus weather, this year’s Pride Parade was a rainbow-hued celebration. The theme of the day was family, and it showed. LGBTQ youth and adults, friends and allies, came out to strut their stuff. “Warwick is an open, inclusive village, and the Pride Parade was the only one in the county and drew hundreds of people --- many of them young -- from an even wider area,” says Bill Steinhaeur, board president of the Warwick Valley Community Center who hosted the event.
The party began at noon at the Center with plates of rainbow-colored bagels. Going with the color scheme, marchers brought tie-dyed T-shirts to screen print with this year’s logo. Advocate groups were on hand to talk about their locally supportive organizations, including The Orange County Youth Bureau, who helped fund this year’s parade. Food donations came from Shoprite and Price Chopper in Warwick, and from local volunteers.
Melissa Shaw-Smith, who coordinated the event with the Community Center and Danielle Barbour from Safe Space America, says, “We invited folks to come and put their own touches on the parade design, led by a talented team from Wickham Works.”
Student volunteers from the Center’s Youth Advisory Board, Acting Out Playhouse, and the Library’s Teen Advisory Board helped decorate the floats. Marchers painted their faces, and made signs to carry. Karen Decher from the Warwick Arts Festival was on hand with her stunning hats and puppets to add another layer of creativity to the parade.
Grand Marshals Danielle Barbour and her family, rode in the gaily-colored Pride Mobile, and as part of the Village of Warwick’s Sesquicentennial celebrations, Mayor Michael Newhard led the crowd. Afterwards, he stressed the importance to the assembled crowd of providing Safe Spaces in our community for all.
“Diversity is a top priority at the center,” says Bill Steinhaeur, “and under Executive Director Karen Thomas’ guidance, the Pride Parade and LGBTQ initiatives have been a reflection of that for several years. Especially in today’s political climate, we’re proud to give the LGBTQ community a voice.”
The Center has recently launched a support group, Outloud that offers a forum for the adult LGBTQ community, their friends, and allies to explore common concerns and share triumphs through social and educational events. Outloud is facilitated by Bonnie Schonfeld, a long time member of the WVCC family and an advocate for civil justice: "Advocating for social change that embraces and applauds gender diversity and human rights can only serve to promote balance and well-being for our community and our planet!" Outloud meets the second Monday of the month at the WVCC from 7PM-8PM. A similar group for youth is starting soon. For more information call 845-986-6422 xt 4.