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Jamestown To Host First Pride Fest Saturday

The Pride Flag after it was raised on Tracy Plaza on National Coming Out Day Oct. 11, 2020. The Pride Flag will again be raised on Tracy Plaza to start Jamestown’s first Pride Fest at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Submitted photo

The city of Jamestown’s first Pride Festival will also be the only in-person one held in Western New York this June.

Starting at 9:30 a.m. with a Pride Flag raising ceremony on Tracy Plaza at the Jamestown Municipal Building, the festival will continue throughout the day at the Jamestown Public Market along Third Street from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; a “Safe Space” area that will include yoga, zumba and meditation at the Wintergarden Plaza along North Main Street from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and live performances start at 7 p.m. at the Wintergarden Plaza with the band Ion Sky and competitive dancers Dancing With Victoria. Capping off the festival will be a free performance at 8 p.m. by RuPaul’s Drag Race star and Jamestown native Pandora Boxx.

“We have the unique situation of having planned a smaller Pride, but being the only live (in-person) Pride Festival in Western New York,” said Sheridan Smith, Pride Fest coordinator. “We will have a huge spotlight on how we celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community. Being the first festival (for the city), I’m unbelievably filled with pride and happiness. Being the only festival happening this weekend will be wonderful, but a lot of work. I think Jamestown is up to it. We will have an incredible time.”

Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist, an LGBTQIA+ elected politician, will take part in the flag raising ceremony at Tracy Plaza to start the festival.

“I’m delighted to be a part of the only in-person Pride Festival in Western New York,” he said. “Most have stuck to virtual ones, but with a lot of residents being vaccinated, we need to move forward and get back to business.”

The first Jamestown Pride Fest will be held this Saturday with several events held throughout the day.

During the flag raising ceremony, there will also be a remembrance because Saturday is the fifth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. Pulse was a gay bar, dance club and nightclub in Orlando, Fla., where on June 12, 2016, the club was the scene of the second worst mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history. Forty-nine people were killed and 53 others were injured.

“We can’t let that go unacknowledged,” Smith said about the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. “There are still places that are supposed to be safe for people living as themselves that are not safe. There are people who feel we should not be heard, be visible and there are still people who think we don’t have the right to be. That is why we continue to have pride to remind us that — while we have come a long way and fought and won a lot of battles — we are not done fighting for our rights and fighting for oppressed communities. To live freely and live with our families safely.”

The first Pride Festival in Jamestown was scheduled to happen last year. However, like many events, it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sundquist said it’s great that the organizers of the festival didn’t give up and continue to work to make sure the event will take place this year.

“It’s a testament to the folks who want to educate citizens and provide a safe space … and to let people be who they are,” he said. “Community organizations have been incredible in the face of the pandemic and through that adversity (Pride Fest planners) didn’t give up.”

Smith said even though there have been Pride-related events in the city before, Jamestown has never hosted a festival like larger cities — Buffalo and Erie, Pa. — have done.

“This Pride Festival will show the uniqueness of our community. We are showing what it’s like to be in Chautauqua County,” he said. “It means a lot for Jamestown to be hosting its first Pride Festival. We have a very vibrant LGBTQIA+ community.”

Most pride events occur around June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City. The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous demonstrations by members of the gay community in response to a police raid that began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan.

Smith said festival organizers are encouraging people attending the festival to wear face masks and practice social distancing.

“We want to keep people as safe as possible, so we are encouraging (mask-wearing),” he said. “We’re encouraging people to bring their most expressive mask, and I’ve seen several.”

Additional events that will be happening during the festival includes drag storytime, “Gender Bread Person” booth, pronoun button booth and a special Escape Rooms Jamestown exhibit with a focus on Pride Fest at the Jamestown Public Market.

“I believe this community is a wonderful community to raise a family in. It’s a wonderful place to raise whatever kind of family you have,” Smith said. “I think it’s going to be great to highlight our pride.”

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