SCHENECTADY – The 11th annual Schenectady Pride was in full swing on Saturday at Gateway Plaza. The event is entirely volunteer run and this year was the first year the event was co-chaired by Audrey Carlton and Sonia Sandoval, both faculty members at Union College.
The afternoon consisted of a variety of vendors and community organizations gathering to share information, food, and art as well as multiple on-stage performances.
The day’s vendors ranged from local craftspeople venturing to their first ever market to booming businesses beloved by the Capital Region.
Erin Harrington, of Queer Snail Studio, has been to Pride before, but only as a guest. This year was his first time selling his art at the celebration.
“I’ve been posting my art on Instagram for a while and now I’m watching it materialize,” Harrington said. “I’m watching myself sell these things to other queer folks and making them smile. It’s so great I love it.”
Café Euphoria is a worker co-op in Troy, and identifies itself as being trans and gender non-conforming owned.
Kate Curry is a member owner at the cafe, and has attended Pride as both a guest and vendor.
“It’s a place of visibility.” Curry said. “We’re happy to be visible among so many other shops and get to know other store owners and make connections in our community that way.”
In addition to vendors, several community organizations hosted booths at the event.
Capital Area Pride Bowlers, an LGBTQ+ bowling league, was there to recruit new members. The team plays at Sportsman’s Bowl at 6 p.m. on Sunday nights.
Free Mom Hugs is a nationwide non-profit that allows volunteers to act as maternal figures to those who may need one.
“My daughter is bi,” Penny Blaisdell said. “I do this because it’s what I’d want her to have if needed.”
The Moms were at Pride to spread word about their organization, which does more than just hug those in need of some motherly love, such as help with college applications.
Planned Parenthood of Greater New York was present to spread word about their LGBTQ+ services.
“It’s just logical we’d do that at a Pride event,” said Elle Bemis, LGBTQ+ patient navigator.
The event featured an array of performers, from singers to drag queens.
“As an all voices choir, it is really important to come to every pocket of the community and not just Albany,” said Capital Pride Singers President Georgie Stevens.
The drag show featured Carmie Hope, Frieda Munchon, Opal Essence, Paris LuRux, Regina Sapphire and Zarria Aurora Davenport. The show was hosted by fellow drag queens Mor’Glamazon and CiCi LaRue. It was the pair’s second year being involved. Last year, LaRue hosted and Mor’Glamazon performed.
“It’s always a good vibe, the patronage is so much fun. I’m excited to be here,” Mor’Glamazon said.
The other performers of the day were DJ RVMBA, The Wreckless Duo, DJ Lovely Candela, and the cast of the Capital District Arts Initiative’s production of Rent.
The event was a hit among all types of attendees. Groups of young people perched on patches of grass were flanked by families chasing their little ones.
“I always want to make sure my daughter knows I love her no matter who she is,” said Sabra Bartz. “She’s 14 months old and this is her second Pride.”
The crowd was full of people dressed in celebratory fashion, from flags worn as capes to princess costumes.
Amanda Sternklar was sporting a hand crocheted rainbow sweater that she made specifically for Pride. Sternklar started crocheting largely to make gender affirming clothing for her friends.
Bishop Tony Green from Saint John of God Catholic Apostolic Church was there to talk about the church’s mission.
“We’re very progressive and very inclusive of gay, lesbian and transgender people,” said Green. “We just want to spread the word that we’re here for people. If someone’s gay, lesbian, or trans and looking for a spiritual home, we’re there. “
Carlton and Sandoval stepped up after Schenectady Pride founder Chad Putnam moved from the area. Both had previously been involved with the event and decided to keep the tradition going.
“It was hard fitting everything into three hours. We’re gonna have to think about expanding the time next year,” Carlton said, looking around the event. “We just really wanted to create a positive inclusive space for people in a world that right now, isn’t so positive.”