In honor of Pride Month in June, a family-fun event was recently hosted by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County at the Suffolk County Farm & Education Center in Yaphank. The event featured a drag show story hour hosted by Bella Noche, as well as crafting, cooking demonstrations, hayrides and family fun.
“Today we’re celebrating the fact that we’re allies of the LGBTQ+ community on Long Island. We need a safe space for all of our families to enjoy. Because this is a county farm, it should be a welcoming space for everyone at all times in order to support love. You don’t need to be LGBTQ to be an ally,” said Vanessa Pino Lockel, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, a nonprofit agency tasked with educating communities about economic development, environment and agriculture.
According to the event’s coordinators, 350 people pre-registered for the event and around 350 showed. The event was popular with 20-something, 30-something and 40-something individuals and couples, who attended with family, friends and lots children of every age, from newborn babies to school-age, pre-teens, teens and young adults.
One such individual who attended with members of her family, including her toddler nephew, was Nikki Klang.
“I recently came out to my family at the beginning of the year. I thought we could come by with my nephew and celebrate acceptance and equality all together—and make sure the younger generation knows it’s ok to be who you are,” said Klang.
The drag queen story hour, told by Bella Noche, was held on the main stage to a backdrop of glittery rainbow ribbon. Afterwards, fans were able to get photos with Noche, who hosts similar storytime events virtually.
Noche said events like this one are needed to unite the community.
“Especially on eastern Long Island, there needs to be more events like this. We have a strong community and a strong group of allies, but we need greater representation because the more events we have like this, the more we get to know each other, as Long Islanders,” she said.
Noche reflected back to her first Pride event, which she attended during her years as an undergraduate at Hunter College in New York City.
“I was 19 years old and going to Hunter College. I went with my GSA [Gay Straight Alliance] group and I can just remember that I felt completely surrounded by my people,” said Noche.
For many, Pride events offer a feeling of empowerment and inclusivity.
“I am originally from the Midwest, where it isn’t as open as it is here. You just can’t be as ‘yourself’ as you can be here. Going to LGBTQ+ events in New York City is really empowering for me,” said Ezra Guerin.
Guerin reflected on their first pride event—a Twins game, back in Minnesota. Guerin said there were rainbow flags everywhere and they felt accepted by the people they were around.
“I felt very seen,” said Guerin.
The Yaphank event centered around family fun and providing a “safe space” for families to enjoy the farm. Attendees were invited to climb onto the back of an open-air tractor wagon for a hayride tour of the farm and animals, including llamas, horses, goats, pigs, hogs, chickens and more. According to Lockel, there are approximately 110 animals on the farm currently, including 23 brand-new baby piglets.
In addition to the story hour, there were two crafting tables: one where participants used puff paints to help design a mural memorializing the event and a second where attendees used faux flowers and pipe cleaners to create jewelry and hair art. Representatives from SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education) provided cooking demonstrations, showcasing different ways to incorporate a “rainbow” of healthy food choices in daily diet.
Food was available for purchase through Eat Me, Drink Me, a traveling food truck that specializes in quality ingredients. On the menu was a grilled cheese meal, hamburger, falafel burger and french fries.
The first Pride parade was held on June 28, 1970 to reflect on the Stonewall uprising, which happened a year earlier. According to History.com, the uprising occurred when New York City police officers performed a series of raids on the Stonewall bar in order to try and shut it down. Instead, the events gave way to one of the biggest and most organized LGBTQ+ protests in history.
In the U.S., small, medium and large-scale Pride events have been held throughout the month of June.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, which is affiliated with Cornell University, hosts other events and programs that focus on quality-of-life issues on Long Island.
“All of our program areas focus on the health and well being of Suffolk County. This event highlights our nutrition and parenting education staff as well as the Suffolk County Farm and Education Center site,” said Vicki Fleming, youth development director of Cornell Cooperative Extension.
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