Underneath gyrating arches of pride-colored balloons, Pride New Haven’s annual block party was in full swing Saturday afternoon, the second of three days celebrating queer life and diversity in Connecticut during New Haven’s Pride Weekend.
The block party filled Center Street in the Ninth Square. Sponsored by Gotham Citi, the New Haven Pride Center (NHPC), the City of New Haven Department of Arts, Culture, and Tourism and the New Haven Cultural Affairs Commission, the event drew people of all ages and some families along with a variety of vendors, entertainers and celebrities from the LGBT community.
Tom Matt came out over 40 years ago during the year of the famous Stonewall uprising, and is the reining Mr. Connecticut Leather (2016). Matt was representing Connecticut’s leather community at Saturday’s event. “What I have seen from then to now is a miracle,” noted Matt, but said he believes the leather and fetish community is largely misunderstood as being as sex addicts: “We’re your next door neighbors—your doctors, lawyers, your bus drivers, your plumbers.” Standing alongside Matt was Mr. CT Daddy Bear, 2015 Walter Trell. Often appearing together, the title holders said they and their organizations work not only to educate and promote awareness, but also to raise money for charities within and outside the LGBT communities.
The Imperial Sovereign Court of Connecticut, a 501c3 not-for-profit charitable organization, deployed its highest-ranking members to the block party in Emperor Dustin D. Cobwebs (at right in photo) and Empress Dandy Lions, who said beneficiaries of the organization’s 2015 fundraising efforts include The American Foundation for suicide prevention, The Jim Collins Foundation and AIDS Project New Haven (APNH). Funds collected by performers throughout the evening were donated to those organizations.
Unfurling a banner of the Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CTGLC) was board member Kris Tonski, who said the organization works to “promote business opportunities for the LGBT community and allied organizations through networking, education and programs.”
Some featured booths at the block party brought a creative and fun twist to dispensing important information and increasing awareness. AIDS Project New Haven’s Stephen Cadby (above, left) and Dustin Pawlow urged party goers to spin a colorful wheel whose numbers corresponded to potentially prize-winning questions.
Arts and design vendors also had a presence at the block party. New Haven artist Emi Smith of Emerson Milo Art, who recently exhibited at Westville’s Project Space, displayed her original small paintings and sketches priced to sell, which explained their rapid disappearance.
Food vendors provided an assortment of made-to-order foods. Duc Nguiyen, whose specialty is Vietnamese cuisine, said he is in negotiations to open the Bang Mi Duc’s Place Cafe at a location on Orange Street. The primarily pork-based dishes with special sauces, vegetables and spices found favor with the bustling crowd.
Familiar faces attending the block party included Mischa and Betty Johnson, whose transgender wedding in Morris Cove this past June was featured in New Haven Independent.
The day’s events opened with the live music of the ever popular Mission Zero(pictured), a brother and sister Indie pop band.
Party emcee Robin Banks would later introduce a fashion brigade of drag queens who entertained the crowd with dancing and perfectly timed lip syncing …
... from polka dots …
... to blue-wigged beauties.
The audience demonstrated its approval by tossing dollars and sometimes joining in to dance with the performers.
For those looking to mix in some exercise with their entertainment, a giant Twister inflatable at the corner of Orange and Center streets dictated next-to-impossible bodily contortions with every spin of the wheel.
Many party goers demonstrated their pride with creative clothing accessories. Samuel Alamo, 27, who came from Hartford to attend the party, sported a narrow tie in pride colors. Alamo said he came with friends “to celebrate what we are all about.” Alamo said he took special pride in Hartford’s Mayor Pedro Segarra, the city’s first openly gay mayor, who raised the pride flag at the Capitol early in his administration. “We are finally getting recognized as regular people,” Alamo said.
After the block party, festivities were taken inside the Gotham Citi club for more fun that would carry into Sunday, the final day of the New Haven Pride weekend, with a celebration at 168 York Street.