Organizers said the idea of a gay pride event for New London was off to a good start as more than a dozen people attended an organizational meeting on Wednesday.
Constance Kristofik said she is looking for people to help with a number of aspects in organizing a festival in New London, saying possible events could include a parade or celebration on City Pier. She said the festival would likely take place in 2014, with smaller events such as workshops, art exhibits, or a “Gay Day” at Ocean Beach Park leading up to it.
Kristofik, who moved to Connecticut in 2006 to be with her partner and works in development at Westerly Hospital, said she formerly helped gay pride events in her former home in Pennsylvania. She completed a feasibility study on holding such an event in New London and determined that it was possible at a cost of $30,000, which could be reduced depending on how extensive the event is. She said gay pride events grew out of political advocacy in the 1960s and that gay rights issues are still relevant today.
“There are still solid reasons to have this event,” she said. “So let’s have one in New London.”
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Mayor Daryl Finizio, who is openly gay and said during his campaign that a gay pride festival would be one way of promoting New London’s diversity, described the city as a hub of southeastern Connecticut’s gay community. He thanked Kristofik for starting the planning process, saying he thought a festival would be a positive event for New London.
“It’s a lot of work, but I’m glad she took it on,” he said. “It really disturbed me when I moved to New London in ’05 and we didn’t have pride.”
According to news archives, New London’s last gay pride event occurred in 1995 when Mayor M. John Strafaci proclaimed a May weekend to be Gay Pride Weekend. The event included a block party on Golden Street and fundraising for a float to enter in gay pride parades in Boston, Hartford, and New York City.
Kristofik said people will be needed for things such as community outreach, coordinating volunteers, managing a website, sponsoring the event, and finding vendors. Attendees shared a number of ideas for things they would like to see at the event, including family inclusive events and a prom for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual residents.
Some attendees questioned whether a parade should be included as part of the event. Arlene Wow, a musician, said she would prefer to see any costs involved in organizing a parade—including fees for the use of city services—go toward other expenses.
“It might be nice to just do the event and not worry about the parade,” she said.
Bill Urich, vice president of Connecticut Pride, said he would like to see the event return to its educational roots, saying LGBT citizens are threatened or put to death in many other countries.
“We need to get back to what it’s all about and not just a big party,” he said.
Urich also said he was optimistic about the event.
“There is no reason I can possibly think of why this event will not be an incredible success, and it’s time,” he said.