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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

PrideFest 2023

Updated: May 19, 2023

By Jennifer Ersalesi

Graphics by Rob Lyons

The Rutherford Pride Alliance and Rutherford Arts Council have been organizing this year's PrideFest which will take place in Lincoln Park on June 3rd. PrideFest has become a popular event in our community as it includes entertainment, family friendly activities, food and craft vendors, non-profit organizations from the area, and so much more. This is Rutherford spoke with the President of the Rutherford Arts Council, Katie Pippin, and Chair of the Rutherford Pride Alliance, Rob Lyons about this year's PrideFest.

TIR: This is the 2nd PrideFest in Rutherford. What will be the same about this year’s PrideFest? What will be different?

Katie Pippin: The major difference is that this year's festival will be running an additional two hours (12 noon - 6 pm). That means two extra hours of the same high caliber live performances, food trucks, vendors, and family friendly fun.

The other big addition this year will be a swag store! We’re curating a great collection of Pride themed merch available for purchase.

Rob Lyons: I’m also excited to see more displays of art this year with some curated pieces from LGBTQIA+ artists, as well as local youth.

TIR: How are the Rutherford Pride Alliance and Rutherford Arts Council working together to ensure that this will be a successful event?

KP: The RPA and the RAC have worked so closely on PrideFest since pre-Covid that sometimes I forget that we are two separate groups. Our main team consists of Rob Lyons, Jess Stiles, David Grassetti, Kat Ruhno-McCallum, Dawn Avagliano-Schumacher, Sarah Orlowicz, and myself. We meet regularly, with weekly meetings closer to the event. We work closely with a small army of volunteers, all of the Borough department heads, the Mayor and Council, the Borough Administrator and Communications Officer to ensure that every detail is planned out ahead of time and will run smoothly. It took two full years to plan the first festival. Luckily this year was a little less time consuming!

RL: What I also love about this collaboration is that it also brings together different community members that otherwise may not interact with one another. Both the RPA and RAC have their own members, but this festival brings them all together, either through festival planning, volunteering or just as an attendee to celebrate the diverse and inclusive community we have here in Rutherford and the area. I also love to see other NJ communities and residents come to attend our festivities. Many towns still do not get the chance to celebrate in the way we have over the past few years. So we are thrilled we get to provide this, not only for Rutherford, but our neighboring communities.

TIR: PrideFest includes fun for the whole family. What are some of the activities attendees can look forward to this year?

RL: We are excited that American Dream will be joining us again and we’ll have appearances throughout the day from Poppy, Queen of the Pop Trolls! As well as our Kids Zone activities back from last year, which include a bouncy house, inflatable obstacle course and arts & crafts.

KP: We will also be having a “Kids at Heart” Zone with some all-ages activities. We are bringing back the beer garden, and have some fun surprises. We are also doing an educational Rainbow Road virtual walking tour, with a giveaway for anyone who completes the tour.

TIR: There will also be live performances on the bandshell stage. Can you tell us about some of the performers/ performances that will take place?

KP: Last year was a great mix of local talent, youth bands, and professionals. This year will also be a mix. The Skivvies are headlining - this is a NY-based group known for being “part Weird Al and part burlesque”. (But don’t worry, they will be doing a family friendly version of their act). There may even be a few surprise Broadway guests! For now, I will say that our entertainment budget this year was a little bigger and you won’t be disappointed.

RL: We also welcome back Harmonica Sunbeam as our Host. Harmonica was a crowd favorite last year and will be back with her Story Hour, as well.

In addition, we are looking forward to welcoming Judith Kasen-Windsor as our Guest Speaker. Judith, an LGBTQ activist, philanthropist and banking executive, is the surviving spouse of marriage equality pioneer Edie Windsor. Edie Windsor, was a gay-rights activist whose landmark case led the Supreme Court to grant same-sex married couples federal recognition for the first time and rights to a host of federal benefits that until then only married heterosexuals had enjoyed. We are excited to have Judith participate in this year's event!

We couldn’t have put the entertainment portion of our show on without the tireless work of Carlton Tanis and Elena Guttierez who are both RPA members volunteering their time to lead and curate a great mix of entertainers!

Be sure to follow us on social media or check our website for a full announcement of our entertainment lineup and schedule.

TIR: Why do you believe PrideFest is such an important event in our community?

KP: The LGBTQIA+ community is still under constant threat from people with hateful ideologies. You see it every day. When Roe v Wade was repealed, the queer community collectively wondered, “Is my gay marriage next?” People boycotting Bud Light for having a trans spokeswoman. The boycotts of Disney over their opposition to the “Don’t Say Gay” bills in Florida. The Tennessee ban of gender affirming care for trans folks, as well as drag shows. Seeing my neighbors who show up at Mayor and Council meetings to protest the "queer spectacle” of PrideFest hurts my heart. Knowing that folks who don’t present as traditionally masculine or feminine will literally give themselves UTI’s rather than use a public bathroom hurts my heart. Knowing that queer folks have to check if it’s safe to travel someplace as a queer person, it’s not right.

Rutherford has openly and lovingly embraced the LGBTQIA+ community in recent years, and we want to celebrate that. We also want to continue to celebrate the arts in town. There’s been so many great art projects happening recently.

We’re here, we’re queer, and we are throwing Rutherford one amazing party!

RL: I completely echo Katie’s sentiments. It’s also so important to show up as allies to the LGBTQIA+ community and visually see the population that is directly affected by these current threats. In town’s like Rutherford, allyship is one of the most important partnerships for us, as we look forward. We need to be able to provide a supportive community that can influence progression of LGBTQIA+ protections nationally, instead of going backwards, as we see happening in certain parts of the country.

I also think Rutherford is made up of so many types of families and celebrating diversity is an amazing opportunity. When I think of the benefits that my son will have growing up in a town that supports his two dads and his unique family, it makes me feel proud that we are raising him here and he’ll grow up accepting of all different types of people.

Our theme of Pride & Joy will be felt throughout the park this day for so many reasons. For those that are proud of who they are and proud of where they live and for those who are filled with joy being around the community that welcomes and supports them.

TIR: Are there any sponsors you’d like to mention? Is there still time for businesses to become sponsors?

KP: American Dream Mall is sponsoring us once again, which we are hugely grateful for. Variance Films is sponsoring our Bolero Snort beer garden. BCB Bank is sponsoring our Kids Zone. We have a whole host of sponsors at every level, and we are so grateful for every single ounce of support.

RL: We have closed out our sponsorships, but for those interested in participating in 2024, please reach out!

We can’t wait to see everyone on Saturday, June 3rd at our flag raising at 11am and then PrideFest immediately after, from 12-6 pm (Rain date will be June 4th)!

Be sure to follow us on social media to stay up to date @rutherfordpridealliance on IG and Facebook, as well as checking our website for ongoing updates #pridefest07070

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