Main Street News

Dutchess County Pride Center Kicks Off June With This Saturday’s Pride Parade and Festival

By Published On: June 7th, 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, the Trevor Project has created a comprehensive document, which you can access here.

In 2015, Dutchess County Pride Center executive director and co-founder Karen Marder’s child came out as transgender. And in the same year, the board president and co-founder of Dutchess Pride Shannon Johns’ child also came out as transgender. As the about page on the organization’s website describes, “The founders looked into the local community to find therapeutic and/or social resources for their child to be their true authentic self without fear. For themselves, they looked for groups to guide and encourage them on how to navigate their own journey in providing support for their children.” 

Filling a crucial gap in Dutchess County

However, as they searched for this assistance and encouragement in the local community, they found the nearby region lacking. It wasn’t until all three founding families struggled to find an LGBTQ+ support system that they knew action needed to be taken. As Karen explains, they sat down to begin their plans in the summer of 2017; by “January of 2018, Dutchess County Pride Center was born, and the first support groups for LGBTQ+ teens and TGNC youth happened.”

Karen notes that upon the organization’s launch, this initial programming was so successful that adult support services were implemented soon after. As Dutchess Pride’s site points out, their number of group programs and social events nearly doubled within their first year as an organization, particularly in response to the sheer demand exhibited by the region: “The community came out in force asking us for more services, and the founders soon realized that the need for community was much greater than they anticipated.”

The Dutchess Pride vision

The core goals and mission of this organization has always centered around providing support, education, and advocacy through outreach, support groups, and social gatherings. Dutchess Pride ensures that their services are accessible to the whole LGBTQ+ community, making an effort to support LGBTQ+ youth and their families as well. This organization holds regular support groups for youth, adults, BIPOC folks, and trans youth and adults. Karen adds, “We also host regular social events for youth, adults and families, as well as intergenerational events to encourage communication and relationships across all ages.”

To Dutchess Pride, the importance of this sentiment is all the more true today, as anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-trans rhetoric is on the rise. In response to this, Karen says, the Center makes a true effort to include and support every member of the community that they can: “We would like to create safe spaces not only at the physical Dutchess County Pride Center, but all throughout the county.”

This Saturday’s festivities

Among Dutchess Pride’s many fun-filled programs this month—for a complete list, you can find their upcoming events page here—a highlight is the Pride Parade & Festival being held this Saturday, June 8th. With a wonderful array of performances from local drag artists; a show from the award-winning recording artist Rachael Sage; and a Little Garden Montessori-hosted array of children’s activities including music time, crafts, and story time; this event will have plenty of entertainment for the whole family. 

As this page on their site outlines, line-up for the parade will begin at 11am on Poughkeepsie’s Market Street between the Eastbound Arterial and Main Street. The parade will commence at 12pm, traveling from Main Street to the John M. Flowers Circle at Victor C. Waryas Park. Here, you can enjoy the many offerings at the Pride Festival, which will showcase a delightful selection of local restaurants, businesses, entrepreneurs, and creatives.

This parade and festival is undoubtedly pivotal as a celebration of LGBTQ+ identity and a chance for members of this community to gather. However, as Karen clarifies, Pride is also a vital reflection of LGBTQ+ history, a reminder of the work left to go, and a significant opportunity to be seen and heard by the greater region: “It’s also important to note that Pride means so many different things to different people and for many, it is not just a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, but also a time to remember the fights those who came before us fought, and how much more we have to do. It is about the importance of visibility and showing others that they are not alone.”

Images courtesy of Dutchess County Pride Center. To support Dutchess Pride’s mission and get involved with their organization, you can go to their website to learn more, donate, apply to volunteer at one of their events, get in contact, and sign up for their newsletter.