The Rock the Rainbow Pride Picnic will take place from noon-6 p.m. Sept. 15.
The event will feature its first-ever headliner, Monica Beverly Hills from “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
“This is the first year we have had a celebrity headliner and she is coming all the way from Chicago,” said Southern New Jersey LGBTQA Pride founder DeAnn Cox.
Cox noted that the previous evening, the performer is stopping by Tabu, 200 S. 12th St., and will also meet and greet guests at the picnic following her performance.
Cox said there will be about 20 vendors at the picnic selling all kinds of goods, from jewelry to leather.
She said that although South Jersey Pride does not attract protestors, she has had some trouble with unsupportive law enforcement in the past. To foster a more open and affirming experience for guests, the locale of the event was changed to the Pennsauken portion of Cooper River Park, at the baseball field near the Christopher Columbus statue, from its previous Collingswood location.
“This year it is in a different location and this is the first year it is listed as a special event by the park,” she said. “Prior years, I was afraid to go there because we are not really as accepted in South Jersey as in North Jersey and Philly, and people wanted to be discreet in the past.”
Cox said she anticipates a different feel to this year’s festival, which gives South Jersey residents a chance to celebrate in their own space.
“It is all about presence and our issue is being out and comfortable and a lot of constituents are not out to their own friends or family,” she said. “It is important for people to come out from all over and show support. It is not about numbers with us, but taking the next step and being out and being you.”
Southern New Jersey LGBTQA Pride will stage a weeklong series of events before the picnic, starting with a volunteer orientation from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Sept. 10 at the Voorhees Library, 203 Laurel Road. From 6-9 p.m. the following night, the Burnz Cigar Vault & Lounge, 239 N. White Horse Pike in Lawnside, will host an LGBTQA Professional Networking Affair. And from 7-11 p.m. Sept. 12, Pinsetters Bar & Bowl, 7111 Maple Ave. in Merchantville, will host LGBTQA Bowling.
This year’s programming and picnic will also include a special message and theme centered on anti-bullying. The theme is supported by Comcast, which will host a workshop on anti-bullying education and awareness at 2 p.m. Sept. 14 at The Treehouse Coffee Shop, 120 W. Merchant St. in Audubon.
Cox encouraged supporters to back this year’s theme by turning out in force at the programming and Sunday’s Pride picnic.
“We’re asking people to wear their Pride gear at the park on Sunday to represent themselves and the community against bullying.”
For more information, visit www.snjgaypride.org.