“It will not rain on our parade,” Lori Panarello said before the first-ever North Fork Pride Parade on June 23. She was right — the sun came out just in time, and the parade marched through Greenport.
Ms. Panarello is one of the head organizers for North Fork Pride and a local business owner of CRAFT Hair Salon in Greenport and ID Salon in Woodbury.
North Fork Pride was organized by the LGBT Network, led by Robert Vitelli and Brian Rosen along with volunteers. The idea was brought to the two earlier this year by Ms. Panarello. “That was a very serendipitous moment because at that moment we really knew that we kind of found each other,” said Mr. Vitelli, who explained that the LGBT Network had wanted to bring Pride to the North Fork for some time but never had a local source to help. Ms. Panarello solved that problem.
“She said, ‘I’ve always wanted to do a Pride event out here,’ and we responded by saying, ‘Well, us too,’” Mr. Vitelli said.
The LGBT Network has been organizing the Long Island Pride Parade for the past 10 years. The event has been running for 33 years and began in Huntington. The LGBT Network has run the parade in Huntington and Long Beach.
The LGBT Network is a nonprofit organization based out of Huntington that provides safe spaces for members of the LGBTQ+ community throughout Long Island, with educational programs, events, health services and support groups.
The first rainbow flag was invented in 1970 with the help of Lynn Segerbloom, who was one of three grand marshals in the North Fork Pride Parade. She did the dyeing of the rainbow colors onto the flag panels and helped with sewing them together with James McNarma and Gilbert Baker.
Ms. Segerbloom lives in California year-round and flew out for this event. Harry Lewis, a Greenport native, and Leslie Kanes Wiseman, a six-decade North Fork resident, were the parade’s other grand marshals.
The first Pride parade was on June 18, 1970, in New York City, Chicago, and in Los Angeles. Since then the concept of a Pride parade has grown and spread around the world. The original three cities are now the largest parades in the States, with nearly one million people attending each.
Although North Fork Pride was much smaller, many people were excited that it happened right in their backyards. “This kind of openness and change coming to our community is so important. It’s been a long time coming,” said Colleen Stellato, an LGBT Network volunteer.
Ms. Stellato has been with the LGBT Network since this past March. She and her friend Sarah Hoffman got involved through a kick-off planning event at CAST in Southold for this past weekend’s festivities.
“The feeling of the North Fork coming together to rally around this cause was beautiful,” Ms. Hoffman said.
Bridget and Eric Elkin were at the event with their two children, who are two and four years old. They are from Manhattan and moved to Greenport 10 years ago. They are “Greenport or nowhere people,” said Ms. Elkin. “Our village’s biggest asset is our authenticity and I think today is a great example of that.”
The Elkins were so excited to have Pride so close to home for more than one reason. “The opportunity it gives to parents to educate our children on what it is to love someone, and what love means, is a privilege,” she said.
Jay Fabs, 33, who grew up in Sheldon, CT, emphasized the importance of a Pride event for young people. Mr. Fabs came out as bisexual when he was 16, he said, and was bullied throughout high school. When he was 25, he came out as pansexual. “I felt kinda embarrassed and as I got older I was like, screw it, you can’t hide who you are,” he said. “It’s a very hateful place out there. It’s great seeing the younger generations — they have it a lot better.”
For many young locals, like Isabella Reeves and Maiya Staudt, both 14, and Hannah Stumph, 13, North Fork Pride was their first Pride event. Ms. Reeves was with her mother and her friend, who said they’ve been to many Pride events over the years and acted as Pride “gurus.”
“I like that it’s smaller than the one in the city,” said Ms. Staudt. “It’s less overwhelming.” Ms. Stumph agreed and said she was very excited to be a part of the Pride on the North Fork.
Amanda Grahl, 21, said the day “feels free. There are a lot of like-minded people here and that’s nice to see and be a part of.”
The parade was the second event for the inaugural North Fork Pride weekend, following a Friday night kick-off party at Little Fish in Southold. AJ Lang and Louis Marra attended the kick-off and said it was a great turnout. “I don’t know what took so long,” said Mr. Lang, referring to a North Fork Pride event.
Mr. Lang said the best part of the kickoff dinner was “meeting new friends that we haven’t met before because there’s really nowhere to go and convene, so having a safe space and meeting people was really fantastic.”
Hundreds of people marched in the parade. North Fork Women, a nonprofit lesbian advocacy group, played with whistles and bells. The North Fork Community Theatre played songs from RENT. The Greenport Fire Department’s truck brandished “PRIDE” balloons across the front. Queerli, a safe space collective that hosts events throughout Suffolk County, to find queer community, marched with tutus and rainbow dinosaur costumes. CRAFT Hair carried rainbow balloons in the shape of scissors.
After the parade, there was a festival in Mitchell Park with vendors and information booths set up. Businesses spilled out onto Front Street for live music, dancing, face painting, and more.
Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. drove a fire truck in the parade and parked on Main Street just in time for the festival. The truck had beer taps on the side.
Burton’s Books had two tables set up outside their shop, where they displayed books by LGBTQ+ authors. Lucy Anderson, who works at Burton’s Books, said she wanted to educate and represent at the same time.
Next door to Burton’s is Kessie, a store filled with earrings, candles, rainbow coats and boas, small journals, fans, necklaces, bags, and other gifts. Carol Rudder, who works at Kessie, said she was excited about this first Pride event.
Next year the plan is to make it bigger, according to Ms. Hoffman and Ms. Stellato. The LGBT Network wants to start planning earlier and do some more fundraising. “This year exceeded our expectations,” said Ms. Hoffman. “I’m excited to see what next year brings.”