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Annual Noho Pride Day draws more than 40,000 to Northampton Saturday

  • CJ Lammers, left, of Chesterfield and Liisa Tikkala of Leeds join hands before starting their motorcycles to lead Northampton's 37th annual Pride March through downtown on Saturday, May 5, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Academy at Charlemont senior Lilah Feitner, center, of Cummington holds a sign of her own design as she arrives at the Three County Fairgrounds with a large contingent from her school during Northampton's 37th annual Pride march on Saturday, May 5, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Danielle Sears, walking with the Whole Foods contingent in the Northampton Pride march, gives out fruit - an alternative to the ubiquitous candy - along Main Street on Saturday, May 5, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Charlotte Brooks, 5, and her mother, Myrrh Brooks, of Florence watch the start of Northampton's 37th annual Pride march from a spot on Old South Street on Saturday, May 5, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amelia Brooks, 3, of Florence watches the start of Northampton’s 37th annual Pride march, including the Raging Grannies contingent passing by on Old South Street, on Saturday. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton’s 37th annual Pride march, estimated to be about 40,000 strong, makes its way down Main Street on Saturday. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Joe Golossi and Nicole Walsh and their children, from left, Marco, 3, (on shoulders), Maylyn, 7, and Maceo, 9, were part of the Bridge Street School contingent in Northampton's 37th annual Pride march on Saturday, May 5, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Danielle Rizzo of Northampton, helping to hold the Cancer Connection Thrift Shop banner, makes her way to the Three County Fairgrounds for the rally and entertainment following Northampton's 37th annual Pride march on Saturday, May 5, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Sarah Lazare of Springfield holds daughter Ka’lonie, 4, high up for a better view of Northampton’s 37th annual Pride march along Main Street on Saturday. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Joe Golossi and children Marco, 3, on his shoulders, and Maylyn, 7, were part of the Bridge Street School contingent in Northampton's 37th annual Pride march on Saturday, May 5, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton City Councilor at Large Bill Dwight, left, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz and U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern chat before hearing from Northampton, England, Mayor Gareth Eales via Skype during Northampton's 37th annual Pride activities at the Three County Fairgrounds on Saturday, May 5, 2018. Ward 6 City Councilor Marianne LaBarge is just behind them. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • As he does every year, Pop's Package owner Hardev Singh, right, hands out water to thirsty participants in Northampton's Pride march, including this contingent from the Lander Grinspoon Academy, on Saturday, May 5, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Members of the Hampshire Regional GSA (Gay/Straight Alliance) visit a food vendor at the Three County Fairgrounds following Northampton's 37th annual Pride march on Saturday, May 5, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hors D'oeuvres welcomes the audience to the Three County Fairgrounds and the entertainment portion of Northampton's 37th annual Pride march on Saturday, May 5, 2018, which included a performance by members of the Duffy Academy of Irish Dance, seated in foreground. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton School Committee member Molly Burnham, left, is applauded by former State Senator Stan Rosenberg, in acknowledgment of the rousing welcome she received from many kids in the audience upon her introduction with other dignitaries at Northampton's 37th annual Pride march on Saturday, May 5, 2018. To the right of Rosenberg is City Council President Ryan O'Donnell. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • City Council President Ryan O'Donnell, left, and former State Senator Stan Rosenberg watch Northampton, England, Mayor Gareth Eales address, via Skype, Northampton's 37th annual Pride march on Saturday, May 5, 2018. The right side of the split screen is a live image of the Northampton, Massachusetts, Pride audience gathered at the Three County Fairgrounds. After Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz hosted his counterpart last February, the U.K. city of 200,000 decided to have its own Pride day - its first. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz waves to a video image of Gareth Eales, the mayor of Northampton, England, after he spoke, via Skype, to Northampton's 37th annual Pride march on Saturday, May 5, 2018. After Narkewicz welcomed his counterpart to the city last February, the U.K. city of 200,000 decided to have its first Pride day. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING



@mjtidwell781
Sunday, May 06, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — Thousands of people decked out in bright colors cascaded through the streets of Northampton Saturday beneath waving rainbow balloon archways.

The 37th annual Noho Pride Day march drew an estimated 40,000 people from all parts of the state. They came to celebrate progress on LGBTQ+ rights since the first parade was held in 1982 and to look toward the future to ensure that progress continues.

Suzanne Arnopolin and her wife, Ronnie Williams, of Whately, flew back from Arizona where they’d spent the winter to be in Northampton for the event.

“When I first started coming to Pride, people would march with paper bags over their heads because people were shouting angry things from along the side of the parade route,” Arnopolin said. “I get tears in my eyes seeing all these young people here today. These kids don’t know any different than to just be who they are.”

Noho Pride spokesperson J.M. Sorrell, who pegged the crowd size at close to 40,000, said even more gathered at the Three County Fairgrounds where there were speakers, music and food and other vendors.

“It’s been an amazing day,” Sorrell said. “We couldn’t have had more perfect weather.”

Sorrell said organizers put more effort this year into letting people know the cost of putting the event on each year and people responded by making donations and holding other events surrounding the parade to help cover expenses next year. Drag host “Hors D’oeuvres” told the crowd the day’s price tag was over $60,000 as volunteers passed around orange buckets for donations.

Marchers set off from the intersection of Old South and Main streets at around 11 a.m. and arrived at the fairgrounds about an hour later where Mayor David Narkewicz read an official proclamation: “Northampton Pride is a time to celebrate the incredible strength and diversity of our LGBTQ community and to reflect upon the hard-fought progress we’ve made fighting for their equality and civil rights,” the statement read. “Pride must also be a time for continued vigilance and activism as our LGBTQ brothers and sisters still face discrimination, violence and political efforts to roll back those hard-fought rights.”

Narkewicz was joined onstage by Congressman Jim McGovern, D-Worcester.

“I’m so happy to be out of Washington, D.C., where there is so much hate and to be here in Northampton where there is so much love,” McGovern said.

A number of members of the Northampton City Council and the Northampton School Committee were also on the stage, along with former Sen. Stan Rosenberg, the first openly gay man to be elected Senate president in Massachusetts.

Rosenberg, who resigned from the Senate Friday following an ethics investigation into allegations surrounding his husband, received applause and loud cheers as he waved to the crowd, but didn’t speak.

Narkewicz also Skyped with a special virtual visitor: Councillor Gareth Eales, the mayor of Northampton, England, who was at his own city’s pride celebration.

Eales said Saturday was an “international love affair of solidarity.”

“We must always ensure that love overcomes hate,” he said.

Other performances and speakers included slam poetry by Kit Yan, a “heroes drag show” and a finale performance by the Great Repression band.

The activist group the Raging Grannies took the stage to sing familiar tunes with new lyrics supporting gay rights. The Grannies also had a message to young people at the event.

“If you ever feel threatened in your schools or community, call the Grannies. We’ll don our hats and stand with you wherever you are.”

Connections across the ages

Men in lavender T-shirts that read “Tribal Elder” on the back beneath a drawing of a tree were often spotted among the crowd.

Allan Arnaboldi and his husband, Mitch Sorensen, now of Springfield but recently of Easthampton, were both wearing the shirts and said they are a part of the Senior Gay Men’s Group that has met every week at the Northampton Senior Center for the past 10 years.

Arnaboldi said the group started as way to see how gay men might give back to the LGBTQ+ community, but it has become a place of support and social events for older gay men who might be isolated, without family or just need others who understand what they’re going through. Sorensen said people come from as far away as Fairfield, Connecticut, for the group.

“It’s been a godsend for a lot of people,” Arnaboldi said.

This pride day was a special one for Arnaboldi and Sorensen; their first date was at the Northampton Pride Day 15 years ago. They’ll be celebrating their 13th wedding anniversary in July, they said.

Arnaboldi recalls marching in one of the very first pride parades in Northampton, and also recalled that many of his fellow marchers covered their faces with paper bags for fear of retribution or loss of employment. Now, Sorensen said some LGBTQ+ people who are around 70 or older feel a little jealous to see young people get to live freely as themselves.

“Growing up, you might have had the feeling you were the only gay man out there,” Arnaboldi said. “A lot of young people might not know what we went through, the work we’ve done to get us all to this place. We hope to share the knowledge of where we came from with young people.”

Arizona snowbirds Arnopolin and Williams said that as long as kids are being true to themselves, they’re happy to have made the sacrifices they’ve made in their lives to push for LGBTQ+ rights.

“These kids don’t know any different. They’re free,” Arnopolin said. “I think Massachusetts is Nirvana for LGBTQ+ people.”

Dejia Foster and Samantha Tuttle of Springfield said they came with other students from Springfield Technical Community College after hearing about the event from a teacher.

“I think it’s great,” Tuttle said. “I have family and friends who are gay and to be able to be here and march with my school is really great.”

“It gets better every year,” said Foster, who noted that she has attended the event three times in the past.

Carol Musante said she came to Pride to support and celebrate her two children. Her daughter, Molly Musante, 15 of Colrain, said it was their family’s third year coming to Pride and that the event is “wonderful.”

“It’s eventful and exciting to be a young person here,” Molly said. “It’s opening me up to a whole new existence.”

Jesse Cabrera and Maya Wiley, of Amherst, said they came to support their community and were happy to see the amount of diversity present at Saturday’s event.

“We’re very lucky to live in a place like this that accepts everyone for exactly who they are,” Cabrera said. “We both grew up in Amherst and for as long as I can remember it’s been a very supportive community.”

Free buttons

At the fairgrounds, there were a variety of vendors and informational booths, from petitions for ranked-choice voting to personalized empowerment jewelry.

Other informational booths were set up to provide information about Tapestry Health, Franklin and Hampshire PFLAG, the Bisexual Resource Center, UMass Stonewall Center, LGBTQ Buddhists and many, many more.

Martha Tirk, the director of admissions at the Academy at Charlemont, said a third of the school’s student body came to march in the parade. She said she was manning the booth for the school’s student-led Gender and Sexuality Alliance and that the school helped sponsor this year’s Noho Pride.

The Western Mass Showing up for Racial Justice group had a booth to educate people about Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who were trans women of color. Catherine B., who was at the booth, said the group hopes to use their own white privilege to bring more awareness of the role that trans people of color have long had in pushing for LGBTQ+ rights.

A booth for the Carpenters Local 336 had a large sign reading, “Jobs don’t have a gender.” Over at the Tapestry Health booth, people played a game guessing, true or false, about important sexual health facts as a Tapestry volunteer stood by to give the correct answers and more information.

One booth offered buttons that read, “I believe you.” The booth was for the Survivor Arts Collective in the Eastworks building in Easthampton. At the booth, passers-by were asked to write down what they would want to say to a survivor of abuse, sexual assault or other trauma. Those words will be put together in an art display, said founder Isabella Gitana.

Gitana said the #metoo movement has brought more people to tell their stories and has resulted in communities being more willing to listen to the stories of survivors. Gitana said the collective also strives to give voices to people of color, a main focus of the booth during Pride.

“The corporate Pride event has become too whitewashed,” said Jennifer Ritz Sullivan. “We can’t forget the people who brought us here, many of whom are people of color.”

M.J. Tidwell can be reached at mjtidwell@gazettenet.com.