Main Street News

Big Gay Hudson Valley: Fostering Queer Community in the Region Since 2008

By Published On: June 28th, 2024

In honor of Pride Month this June, we will be highlighting local Pride organizations that support and empower the region’s LGBTQ+ community. The modern LGBTQ+ rights movement began with The Stonewall Rebellion on June 27th, 1969, in protest of the NYPD’s raids on gay bars. According to the Trevor Project, “Thousands took to the streets in the days and weeks that followed, leading community organizations to form globally, and the first Gay Pride march to mark the uprising one year later.” Trans women of color Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were pioneers in organizing and progressing this movement. To learn more about pivotal events and individuals in LGBTQ+ history, you can read Matt Baume’s 2020 article for Them explaining the history of Pride, and the Trevor Project has created a comprehensive document, which you can access here.

Patrick Decker and Stephan Hengst

When Big Gay Hudson Valley (BGHV) first began in 2008, co-founder Patrick Decker and his husband, co-founder Stephan Hengst, simply wanted to spread the word about local developments in the LGBTQ+ community and be on the same page with their friend circles about these happenings.

“New businesses would open, events would be produced, people would come to town, but there was no centralized resource for people to find all of this information in one place. So we started sharing what we knew and inviting others to do the same,” Patrick explains. Over time, this undertaking evolved with the creation of weekly newsletters and a website. And soon, BGHV would organize their own events, Patrick says, “to get people out of the house and connected with each other and the fab bounty of amazing resources we have here in the Hudson Valley.”

The growth and impact of BGHV

A fixture in the community for over 16 years now, Big Gay Hudson Valley has truly flourished, helping queer people all across the region stay connected and informed about what this area has to offer. This wouldn’t be possible without the support of every individual who takes part in the organization’s plans and accesses the information it provides. 

“We know that a community’s success is the sum of its parts,” Patrick points out. “We create experiences and promote resources that empower people to make new connections, explore the Hudson Valley and live as their authentic LGBTQ+ selves.”

Photo of Pride in the Sky by Tanner Townsend

One of BGHV’s primary resources, their website, features a free, digital community calendar to which local event organizers can add their upcoming plans. Thanks to this collaborative element, Patrick notes that dozens of events all over the region are posted on any given week. “It has a huge diversity of offerings across lots of different areas of interest, as does our online business directory of queer-owned and -affirming businesses.”

In addition to this incredibly helpful service, Big Gay Hudson Valley is most famous for their events, which strive to highlight the diverse community and array of venues in the region. According to Patrick, their organization plans a variety of fun events and exciting activities including dance parties, theatrical productions, picnics, burlesque shows, and more.

“We believe all of this is important because we want people who live here to feel seen and appreciated and love where they live while people who visit head back home feeling entertained, inspired, and hopefully eager to come back again soon.” To take a glimpse at this organization’s past range of offerings, you can visit their blog!

Reflecting on this year’s Pride celebrations

Pride started early this year at Big Gay Hudson Valley, launching with their first annual Pride in the Sky event on the Walkway Over the Hudson, which saw over 3,000 people in attendance. Patrick details the evening, which included “festivals with local community organizers, a dance party under the stars on the Walkway, and a procession of a 1,000’ rainbow flag over the river from Poughkeepsie to Highland.”

Photo of Pride In The Sky by Ethan Thompson

Each June, in keeping with their origins as an information-sharing resource, BGHV keeps track of and promotes as many Pride festivities as possible all throughout the Hudson Valley region. And this year, the organization is proud to announce that their Pride Along the Hudson digital compilation encompassed over 75 events—an all-time high! “We hope people find something that speaks to them—be it a night out, a parade, a community festival, a show, or something else—and helps them to connect with their community and be proud of where they live,” shares Patrick.

Celebrating the uniqueness and visibility of the community is a central part of what makes Pride so special. Big Gay Hudson Valley wants to ensure that the entire community feels seen and appreciated, while also understanding that now is a crucial time to defend LGBTQ+ rights and fight back against today’s oppressive attitudes. Patrick explains, “Now more than ever—with the rights of LGBTQ+ people under attack, with people’s bodily autonomy being taken away from them, with diversity & inclusion initiatives on the decline—Pride is our chance to show up, be heard and affirm to our communities that we have so much more that unites us than what divides us.”

All images courtesy of Big Gay Hudson Valley. To support Big Gay Hudson Valley’s mission and get involved with their organization, you can go to their website to learn more about what they have to offer and get in contact. To stay informed about their upcoming events, see their calendar! They have programming all year round, and as Patrick says, fostering a sense of community takes an active effort: “Everyone needs to come, engage, connect and nurture it so that it grows. We’re incredibly fortunate to have a community here in the Hudson Valley that does just that.”

To engage with their vibrant community and plan your next visit, follow them on Instagram!