Yesterday was Pride in Asbury Park. For the first time, I marched in the parade - with the Pride Center of NJ. It was super fun - way more fun than I thought it was going to be - to wave to the folks watching and yell out "Happy Pride!!!!" every few seconds.
The woman who owned the float that we rented is named Robin. She's been renting floats for parades for 27 years. She says Asbury is her favorite of the Pride Parades because "there aren't those crazy protesters." She started talking about how a number of years ago for Philly Pride a group of about 50 protestors were arrested for trying to upend - turn over - the vehicle and the float it was pulling. "After that that group only sent a few protestors and they were kept far away from the parade route."
Robin heard a woman in the crowd in Asbury yelling out scripture and saying that we (the marchers) would all be saved if we'd just stop sinning. She shook her head, "Obviously, she's not reading the same bible I'M reading!" Robin said dismissively. "But, at least she's just preaching about religion. Way better than those "God Hates" people."
Occasionally, along the route there'd be a particularly cute dog and Robin would slow down the float to take a good look at it. She's a big animal lover. And her daughter in law is a Hungarian Gypsy, according to her. "Yep, my daughter in law 'turned the rooster' for this parade today, to make sure the weather holds. And it worked! Only works for her, though, 'cause she's got that heritage." It's true -- earlier that morning the weather had threatened to pour - but as it got closer to step off for the parade, it was just cloudy and humid. No rain. Thanks to Robin's daughter in law.
As I was walking along the parade route talking to Robin as she drove, I wanted to ask her how she got into this business. She drove an hour and a half to participate in a 20 minute parade for a bunch of gay people. Now, granted, she was being paid for this service. But how does someone from South Jersey (near Cape May) get involved in such activities? I wish I had asked her. That would have made a great QueerSpeak episode.
As we got near the end of the route, Robin was talking less and concentrating more because the crowds were bigger and there were more kids around. I waved to some people -- I was even recognized a few times by folks I didn't know, that was wild - and then she pulled her truck and float off into the de-staging area and I went to go into the Festival. I didn't get to say good bye. But during our talk along the parade route, I did thank you, sincerely, for being with us. She said she was very happy to be there.
The Pride Festival was typical - though it was set up a bit better than usual. Lots of vendors selling all sorts of rainbow/pride items and lots of business representing at the event. It was nice to see some familiar faces, but overall, the festival wasn't the highlight of the day. Robin was.
Happy Pride, everyone!