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Long Island gay pride parade canceled, but festival still on

The Long Island Gay Pride Parade and PrideFest

The Long Island Gay Pride Parade and PrideFest in Huntington on June 14, 2014. This year's parade has been canceled, but the festival is still on. Photo Credit: LIGLBT Network

A parade that has been a platform to assert political rights and celebrate Long Island’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community for 25 years will not take place this year in Huntington after organizers decided to put the march “on hold,” citing concerns about security and logistics.

However, the Long Island Pride festival will go on as scheduled June 11, with the 26th yearly celebration in the town’s Heckscher Park featuring live bands, businesses reaching out to LGBT customers and entertainment for families from noon to 5 p.m.

Another group of advocates, who disagree with the parade’s cancellation, said they are boycotting the festival and will host their own demonstration in Sayville on June 12.

The LGBT Network, which runs the Huntington event, decided to cancel the parade to concentrate on the most popular aspect of the annual gathering.

The festival “will have something for everyone,” said David Kilmnick, a Long Island Pride co-founder and chief executive officer of the network, which in 2012 took over the parade and festival that had been run by volunteers.

By the group’s estimates, combined attendance grew from about 3,000 people to more than 15,000 last year, but most people were going to the festival. The parade had come to require too much attention, with threats that followed the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and a dearth of volunteers to monitor all activities along the route, Kilmnick said.

“It’s our responsibility to make sure that the 15,000 people coming to the park on that day, that the only thing they have to worry about is celebrating pride,” said Kilmnick, adding that it’s “in the park . . . where we have to put our resources.”

A new group calling itself The Long Island LGBTQA Visibility Coalition disagrees and announced its members are planning their own walk in Sayville on the day after the festival. They seek to commemorate a parade that they say had to face opposition to become established in Huntington, and to showcase the struggles still faced by those fighting for equality.

The “Q” in the group’s name stands for “queer,” which some prefer as a more inclusive umbrella term for the community, and the “A” represents both “asexual” people and “allies.”

That march will take place June 12 at 12:30 p.m., with participants gathering at the Long Island Rail Road station in Sayville and walking to Montauk Highway.

“To find it has been canceled really upset many members of our community,” said Erinn Furey, co-chair of the coalition, whose online group has attracted hundreds of subscribers. “The parade is a more appropriate vehicle for visibility. It provides validation, which can be life-saving, particularly for LGBTQ youth.” The march allowed smaller groups to march with banners, while they would have to rent space at the festival site, she said.

Kilmnick said the original parade is not going away and that he welcomes other events if they aim “to build community, not divide.”

The network’s parade will be retooled to return “bigger and better” as the group seeks to turn Long Island Pride next year into “a destination event,” he said.

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