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Long Island Pride Parade draws thousands to Long Beach

The Long Island Pride celebration, which featured over 30 events over a three-day period, was capped off on Sunday, June 11, 2017, with the 27th annual parade in which over 5,000 people marched. Also, 49 surfers with memorial arm bands paddled out into the ocean to form a memorial honoring the 49 people who died in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando last year. (Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely)

The City of Long Beach welcomed about 20,000 people to the last day of the LGBT Network’s 27th annual Long Island Pride Parade on Sunday — a new location after years of the event taking place at Heckscher Park in Huntington.

Event organizers said the three-day event drew at least 30,000 revelers.

Long Island Pride was launched in 1991 and consists of a festival, concert, 5-kilometer run, parade and other family-friendly events.

Holly November Siegel, 36, of Long Beach went to the parade with her husband and 18-month-old son, donning a rainbow tie-dyed T-shirt and a fistful of rainbow pinwheels.

Pride “is completely aligned with our community,” November Siegel said. “We’re just a really inclusive, loving and accepting crowd.”

The parade began at noon on Broadway at Laurelton Boulevard, continuing five blocks east on Broadway to Long Beach Boulevard.

“The move to Long Beach was the right thing to do for so many reasons,” said David Kilmnick, chief executive of the Long Island LGBT Network. “One is we’re in a community that’s opening up its arms and giving the LGBTQ community a big hug.”

City Manager Jack Schnirman said Long Beach officials worked to make sure sufficient security was in place for the event, a process a year in the making.

The crowd included straight allies showing support for the LGBT community, and for some it was an opportunity to educate themselves about inclusion, acceptance and support.

“A man of my age . . . heterosexual, first thing was ‘Why is it Pride Day and not Gay Pride?’ ” said Gary Pranzo Jr., 54, of Long Beach. “Then I began to learn — it’s LGBTQ, so if you just say Gay Pride you are now excluding part of this culture . . . it’s a learning process being out here for me.”

After the parade, hundreds gathered on the beach as 49 surfers took to the water — one carrying a large rainbow flag — for a ceremony to honor the lives of those killed last June 12 in the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub.

“It was a way the Long Beach surf community, and the community as a whole, can pay tribute to their lives,” said Cliff Skudin, 35, of Long Beach.

Skudin, owner of the Skudin Surf shop, came up with the idea for the tribute, in which surfers formed a circle on their boards as waves rose and fell around them. They beat the water with their hands and feet, calling out their love for each other and those who lost their lives. He said the ceremony is a tradition surfers partake in to honor loved ones.

“It’s a way for us just to show love and to not take life for granted,” Skudin said. “Because you never know. Those people went to a nightclub. And life was taken from them.”

Kendall Wade, 36, Amityville, said he wore a band bearing the name of his cousin, Edward Sotomayor Jr., who was among those killed at the Orlando club.

“Everybody here, they don’t even know the victims, and they’re all here for them,” Wade said. “It’s so amazing.”

Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) said Sunday’s events proved moving the Pride Festival in Long Beach was a resounding success among locals.

“We are living in times where you have to take a stand,” Kaminsky said. “There is a lot of hatred and darkness out there. And I grew up in Long Beach and I always prided myself on coming from a town that was inclusive. . . . To be able to host this very special day at this important time in our country was poignant.”

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