Noho Pride to return to its political roots on Saturday

  • Northampton’s 35th Noho Pride march parades down Main Street during last year’s event. This year’s march will take place Saturday and is expected to draw some 30,000 people. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

@amandadrane
Published: 5/2/2017 10:37:26 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Noho Pride will look to its roots on Saturday as the 36th annual event returns to a more political tone, a break from the predominantly celebratory vibe of recent years.

This is also the first year organizers of Pride events in Northampton coordinated with those in Boston and Worcester. The unified theme: “Stronger together.”

“I think we felt the need for solidarity given the political climate we find ourselves in,” J.M. Sorrell, spokesperson for Noho Pride, said Monday.

The march to the Three County Fairgrounds, which takes about an hour and a half, begins at noon along Hampton Avenue. Speakers and performers kick off the rest of the afternoon at the fairgrounds at 1:30 p.m., rain or shine. Organizers estimate that as many as 30,000 people will participate in the day’s events. 

“When we started marching 36 years ago it was mostly a protest of sorts. It, over time, morphed into more of a celebration,” Sorrell said. “This year, unfortunately, we’re cycling back to that political element.”

While Sorrell said “there’s a lot to feel joy about” in Northampton, “the erosion of LGBT rights around the country is a concern.”

She said President Donald Trump’s administration is working to undermine progress and render the LGBT community invisible by derailing efforts like one that would have tracked LGBT populations as part of the census plan.

“I feel like we’re being made to feel irrelevant in whatever ways they’re able to do,” Sorrell said.

“There’s definitely a sentiment either of not understanding or willfully denying our rights to equality.”

For his part, Mayor David Narkewicz said Pride is an important day for the city.

“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,” he said. “Pride must also be a time, however, 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.”

Last year’s events marked the first year since the Supreme Court ruled marriage equality the law of the land in June 2015.

“What a difference a year makes,” Sorrell said, adding the new administration can’t as easily retract settled law.

Sgt. Josef Barszcz, charged with organizing police department staffing for Saturday, asks that those seeking to pass through downtown seek an alternate route. “Obviously traffic is going to be extremely heavy,” he said Tuesday. “For anyone cutting through town, it would be wise to use (Interstate) 91.”

Barszcz said Main Street will be closed from around 11:50 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Traffic westbound on Route 9 will be redirected to Lincoln Avenue and Industrial Drive, while eastbound traffic will be redirected to State and New South streets.

During the same timeframe, Route 5 will be closed from Trumbull Road to the new rotary on Pleasant Street, Barszcz said. Southbound traffic along King Street will be detoured through Trumbull Road, while northbound traffic from Route 5 will be redirected to Conz Street. Additionally, he said officers will direct northbound traffic from Conz Street to New South Street.

Narkewicz will give a proclamation to start off the staged portion of the day, which lasts through 5 p.m. Master of ceremonies Cindy Foster will lead the way as speakers and performers take the stage at the fairgrounds.

Drag queens and kings will grace the stage and Valley Women’s Martial Arts will do a demonstration. Sorrell said the event will also feature a unique performer named Brennan Srisirikul — a singer and speaker with cerebral palsy who wows crowds with his music and inspirational journey.

Parking and admission at the fairgrounds are free, however Sorrell asks everyone to “put a buck in the bucket” on Saturday to help offset the event’s $40,000 price tag. Noho Pride is a nonprofit and comprised of volunteers. “It’s a labor of love,” shesaid. “We all own the event as a community.”

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@gazettenet.com.

 




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