Heartfelt support was on display with energy as large as the rainbow that appeared at the end of day, during the 21st Annual GLBTI Pride Celebration in Asbury Park on June 3.
“This year’s parade was twice the size of ever before,” said Linda Phillips, event volunteer organizer and Asbury Park resident. “Almost 20,000 people came to show their support for the community. All, literally, under a rainbow.”
More than 30 organizations, businesses and corporations participated in the 70 minute parade, including locally-based Century 21 Coastal Realtors, Hotel Tides, Johnny Mac’s, Paranormal Books and Trinity Church.
“I just saw a friend who is here for the first time to support her 18 year old daughter,” said Corey C. of Old Bridge. “I don’t know if straight people realize how wonderful it is to the gay community to feel their strength here. Taking the time to offer their positive energy is something very sweet and meaningful.
Christina and Carrie Ford, of Verona, came to the parade with their 17 month-old son, Theodore.
“It’s a big deal for our son to see all this diversity and support so we made a point of coming here,” said Christina Ford. “We wanted to share in the respect for each other that comes with this day – it is really something special for our family.”
Her wife Carrie added, “I want to thank everyone who has made our son feel loved and included today.”
Many attendees commented on how the event has grown into something worthy of Asbury Park.
“I have been coming to the parade for twelve years and there was a time when you blinked and missed it,” said Dennis Randall, artist and city resident. “It is fantastic to see how the parade has grown as well as how many people come to it.”
Neptune Township resident Joanne Moore has been coming to the parade for a number of years with her daughter Ashley. This was the first year Ashley brought her daughter Sha-Niyah.
“These are good people and they deserve equal rights – it’s time,” said Moore.
Following the parade, the day-long celebration continued in Bradley Park, west of the Paramount Theatre and featured performances by singer Deborah Cox and comic Suzanne Westenhoefer.
“Twenty one years in our city and these celebrations keep getting better,” said Asbury Park Mayor Ed Johnson, who marched in the parade with councilmembers John Loffredo and Sue Henderson. “This was the best one yet.”