On a warm Saturday earlier this month, the waterfront near the Peacemaker’s Stage in Downtown Binghamton was filled with music, dancing and vibrant colors as more than 1,000 people came out to celebrate the 13th annual Pride Palooza.
The June 10 event featured three drag shows, group activities and approximately 30 vendors ranging from Monster Energy Drinks to the Broome County Roller Derby Girls. The Binghamton Pride Coalition, which brings together LGBTQ individuals, groups and allies in the Greater Binghamton Area, organized the event. The coalition meets monthly and hosts events including happy hour mixers, cabaret shows and paint nights to raise money for Pride Palooza — its biggest day of the year.
Opal Essence was one of the drag queens who performed.
“Pride Palooza’s really a day to feel content and happy and express yourself,” said Chris Waters, the president of coalition. “I think sometimes in the gay community, people who want to express themselves don’t know how and we give them this opportunity to be who you want to be.”
According to Waters, there has been an increase in attendance at Pride Palooza in recent years.
Connie Hasto and her wife, who live in Johnson City, are annual attendees of Pride Palooza. Hasto said she has enjoyed every Pride Coalition-sponsored event she has attended because of the opportunity to meet people in a festive, informal setting.
“This was definitely the best year yet,” Hasto said. “There were more organizations, more people; it’s a great place and the people seem to enjoy being there.”
The palooza isn’t the only Pride event in Binghamton during June. On June 3, Binghamton Mayor Rich David kicked off the month by raising a rainbow flag outside of city hall. He was joined by New York State Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, Broome County Executive Jason Garnar, local children and members of the Pride Coalition.
Kids help #Binghamton mayor Rich David raise the #pride flag. Mayor David talked about Binghamton’s record of supporting the rights and equal dignity of LGBTQ people as essential ingredients to our community being strong and welcoming to all. #pride2016
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“It’s important, more now than ever, that we remain united here in Binghamton, New York and that we say no to the politics of fear,” David said, according to Fox40 Binghamton.
— Donna Lupardo (@donnalupardo) June 3, 2017
While political leaders acknowledged the month, Waters said the main message of Pride Palooza is not a political one.
“We try to make [Palooza] less political and more about having fun,” Waters said. “We try to put a social outlet out there. We want [the events] to be a social thing but also an opportunity to express yourself.”
On June 25, Pride Month came to a close with an adult picnic at Greenwood Park, which is located roughly 20 miles from Binghamton in Lisle, New York. The picnic, which included free hamburgers and hot dogs was also organized by the Pride Coalition.