Monday, July 1, 2013

Pridefest and the NYC Pride Parade

The NYC Pride celebrations went over a few days, including a rally last Friday with Lady Gaga, a candlelight remembrance ceremony on Saturday and other events. We're fortunate to be staying right in the centre of the Hudson Street Pridefest, so it was literally outside our front door.

The street was blocked off in the early morning, and stalls put up along four blocks. There was a stage for music all day at the north end, with volunteers running a volunteer support stand (a bit recursive, but showed how organised everyone is). The Pridefest workers all had colour-coded t-shirts marked with their responsibilities and the corporates putting up the stalls seemed to be very much geared up for the day. One bank in particular had stall after stall offering face-painting and netbanking, and I also saw a Betty Crocker stand expressing cakey solidarity with all families.

Plenty of food carts for the jumping crowd, and several stalls giving away free samples of electronic "cigarettes" which were very popular. There's not that much smoking in public, and most buildings forbid smoking outside.

After having a quick perambulation up and down Hudson Street, we headed for 5th Avenue and the parade. There was a steady line of people sitting in camp chairs along 5th Avenue, almost everybody either dressed for a gay party or wearing a rainbow motif. Vendors were everywhere selling rainbow flags, ties, t-shirts and flags-as-capes. Hard to estimate crowds, but the city as a whole seemed to be enjoying the day. The police were in force, shutting off all the sidestreets from traffic (and carefully managing the occasional relief crossing of 5th Avenue for pedestrians and cars). The lady cops were getting smooched by passing lesbians and seemed to be pleased and blushing at the attention.

We got there early, so walked from the Flatiron Building to Barnes & Noble to have a quick look inside before the parade got to that street.

The parade started with the two top brass police cars, then women on motorcycles, followed by men on motorcycles (with a group of Harley riders really making some noise). Then the Grand Marshals - I recognised Harry Belafonte and Edie Fisher (the plaintiff in the recent Supreme Court case which struck down the Defence of Marriage Act).

Corporate "floats" - or at least vans - were common and several had people passing samples, beads or flags to the crowd. Wearing multiple beads a la Mardi Gras seemed to be a thing.

The parade seemed to thin out after a while - public services and unions were well represented, and several politicians took the moment to (ahem) parade their support for equal rights. To be fair, one was actually running on a GLBT platform, but Governor Cuomo was shameless in having a spruiker try to get the crowd to shout out his name.

We walked back to Hudson Street, recharged the batteries (as one must) and then went downstairs to the street party. The outfits continued to be outrageous, with lots of people putting in a big effort.

It started to rain so we ducked into Hudson Bar and Books. Very civilized bar, with its own brand of cigars and more whiskeys than I've ever seen. We had cocktails and a cigar, then I had a Glenmorangie Signet for the memory of my departed comrade Thomson, I.

Back home for tea - the lobster ravioli was not brilliant - and prepared for another walk to the piers along the Hudson River for the fireworks. We got there early and took a position on the waterfront. The mood was festive, not too much aggro, though we felt a little out of zone because:
* the crowd was 99.9% black;
* the crowd was 80% lesbian, and frisky with it; and
* the crowd was smoking a lot of pot.

There was a large police presence, but they kept well away near the main road. However, there were parks&rec people walking next to the paths to make sure people didn't sit on the grass.

Nonetheless, it was an amazing people-watching experience.

When the fireworks finally started a bit before 10pm it was a bit anti-climactic so we left before the finish to beat the crowds - such was the crush that the police were herding and moving on people to clear intersections. The first episode of season 8 of Dexter awaits ...

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