Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Small-Town Pride: Pride Festivities in Smaller Places Are Where the Biggest Changes Are Possible. Here's a Preview of Five Down-Home Pride Events

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Small-Town Pride: Pride Festivities in Smaller Places Are Where the Biggest Changes Are Possible. Here's a Preview of Five Down-Home Pride Events

Article excerpt

Nyack, N.Y.

POPULATION: 6,700

PRIDE FOUNDED: 1999

THIS YEAR'S PRIDE: WWW:GAYPRIDEROCKLAND:ORG

Many pride celebrations are defined more by drag queens and go-go boys than by families with children. That's why Phyllis Frank, head of the Community Change Project at Volunteer Counseling Services of Rockland County, just northwest of New York City, set out to create Gay Pride Rockland.

"Our goal is to mainstream GLBT issues, to make our issues everyday issues," says a passionate Frank. "Our challenge is to demystify the images created by the media, which influence the way people see the gay community." In particular, she is talking about sexually charged images that appear in large-scale pride events in places like New York City and San Francisco.

"Don't get me wrong," she says. "I love the men and women who dance on the floats, but that's not the entirety of the gay community. And when those are the only images, that's very harmful."

The first Gay Pride Rockland, held in 1999, brought out over 1,000 people with the successful slogan "It's not a parade. It's an event for everyone." Frank said that she knew she was on the right track when she convinced her straight uncle to attend. "He was shocked that it was just regular people," she recalls. "He thought he'd be able to pick out the gay people."

The day's festivities include entertainment and speeches, most notably by a slew of local elected officials, inside the Nyack Center on Depew Avenue downtown. Outside, there is a children's carnival, food and merchandise vendors, and supervised family activities. There is no admission charge to any of the activities.

With family-friendliness in mind, organizers have rejected sponsors and vendors deemed too sexually oriented, says Michael Segovia, LGBT program coordinator at Volunteer Counseling Services. They even turned down offers of trash receptacles from a ubiquitous lubricant company. "I love lube. But I don't want a lube ad on every trash can," says Frank, adding that other aspects of Gay Pride Rockland are more important than money. "Our goal is major social change in Rockland County. And that's no small task."

Hopkinsville, Ky.

POPULATION: 30,000

PRIDE FOUNDED: 2002

THIS YEAR'S PRIDE: MEMBERS.TRIPOD.COM/RSBPPRIDE

When Andy McIntosh moved to this small city in western Kentucky six years ago, he found almost no signs of LGBT life: only one gay bar that soon closed, no gay community center, no gay organizations, and no gay pride celebration.

Hoping to find other gay people, McIntosh started a Yahoo! group, which now has about 140 members and grew into a volunteer-run gay social and community service club called Remember Stonewall Be Proud. The group now sponsors Hopkinsville's annual pride picnic and festival. In June they will celebrate their fifth year.

Hopkinsville is "the buckle of the Bible Belt," McIntosh likes to say, and organizers initially had a hard time coaxing local gays to their public event. "Many people were afraid at first," McIntosh says. "They would tell me, 'I can't [attend pride]. They'll find out at work. Or my church will find out."

As a result, only 12 people attended the group's first pride celebration. Last year, however, attendance was over 200. The event, held on private property, has grown into a festival with food, games, and information booths. In 2005 the group held its first Miss Stonewall Pageant, something it plans to make an annual part of pride day. An individual once made a complaining phone call to the employer of one of Remember Stonewall Be Proud's volunteers, but the group has never suffered in-your-face harassment.

McIntosh is owner of Gaelic Dreams Floral and Imports, a local store that sells pride merchandise and has become somewhat of a default gay community center.

Despite being a short drive from the larger community of Clarksville, Tenn. …

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