Lehigh Valley Pride celebrates Stonewall, artistic queer roots

Lehigh Valley Pride celebrates Stonewall, artistic queer roots

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This weekend marks the 26th annual Lehigh Valley Pride festival, which features the theme “Millions of Moments of Pride” — mirroring this year’s WorldPride theme that commemorated Stonewall 50. 

The Allentown celebration, slated for Aug. 18 from 12-6 p.m. at the locale’s Jewish Community Center of the Lehigh Valley, is organized by the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center. Crowds of about 5,000 are expected.

“There’s just so many moments of Pride in so many communities since the Stonewall riots,” said Adrian Shanker, executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan Center. “We're going to help everyone make more moments this year that they can be proud of.”

For the first time in the festival’s history, in lieu of an opening ceremony, the celebration will kick off with a Pride rally that commemorates Stonewall and centers on “hot button issues” impacting the queer community, including immigrant and trans rights, LGBTQ nondiscrimination, the importance of registering to vote and protecting people from gun violence, Shanker added.

"We’re excited that we're using the 50th year of Stonewall to frame elements of what Pride has always meant to our festival in Allentown,” he told PGN. 

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine and Shawn Bausher, former President of the organization Pride of the Greater Lehigh Valley before it merged with Bradbury-Sullivan Center, will star as Pride grand marshals. Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong and Allentown Mayor Ray O'Connell will join the festivities, and Congresswoman Susan Wild is scheduled to speak on stage. 

Lehigh Valley Pride will feature two stages for entertainment, expanding from previous years which used one. In addition to local artists, headliners include drag performers Silky Ganache and A'keria Davenport, from season 11 RuPaul's Drag Race, and Emma’s Revolution, a lesbian folk duo from California. 

“[Their] music is really about keeping justice in the world, and we're also bringing them because it’s the 50th anniversary of Stonewall,” Shanker said. “We wanted to highlight music as a form of protest.”

More than 150 vendors, including local nonprofits, retailers and artists, will appear at the event. One percent of total revenue from the celebration goes to the Solidarity Fund at InterPride, an organization dedicated to facilitating Pride events around the world, including in countries with less progressive LGBTQ rights. 

The most unique aspect of Lehigh Valley Pride, Shanker said, is its emphasis on arts and culture. An “artist promenade” showcases the work of local LGBTQ visual artists. A live artmaking competition spanning the event’s six-hour duration features five artists painting refrigerators with unique designs, vying for the crowd-selected winning piece that will score the frontrunner a $500 prize. 

The family-friendly event also offers spaces for teens and youth. Activities for youngsters include two drag queen story hours throughout the day, and those younger than 12 years old gain free admission when accompanied by a parent. 

For Shanker, Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center’s goal is to offer something at Pride for everyone. A sign language interpreter will be stationed at each stage throughout the day to aid accessibility, and the festival will offer a designated alcohol-free social space.

“I hope that people take away that we can have a celebration of queer art and culture, and then, by doing so, we can celebrate what's best about our community,” Shanker said. “That’s the things that make us unique as queer people: our history with drag, the unique musical forms in our community, the visual artists that provide representation of our community that sometimes isn't always seen and that we can do so in a way that is fully inclusive of people with disabilities and older adults.”

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