New London Pride Festival 2022 promises week of welcoming events
New London — The theme for this year's New London Pride Festival, scheduled for Aug. 21-28, is "Come out, come out, whoever you are," a twist on the Wicked Witch scene from "The Wizard of Oz", according to event co-chair Xavier Day.
Day and co-chair Alycia Ziegler, along with a committee and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, are planning the city's ninth annual Pride Festival.
“You don’t have to be afraid,” Day said about the theme’s meaning. “We want to welcome everyone in their authentic self.”
New London Pride Day, scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 27, will be a full day of entertainment, food and beverages at Ocean Beach Park.
New London Pride 2020 was a virtual event due to COVID-19 health guidance. Last year, with vaccines available, people were able to attend the all-day event in person.
Every year, Ziegler said, the New London Pride planning team strives to pull together elements of the festival which have been successful during past years and "shoot for the moon” with new ideas.
The team this year would like to revisit theme nights from previous years, such as a panel on health education, a session for gamers and a dining gathering at a restaurant. Ziegler and Day are pursuing event partnerships with organizations like Mohegan Sun, which hosted a Pride-dedicated basketball game last year. They're also planning a program such as a "New London’s Got Talent" show at The Garde Arts Center.
The team looks forward to closing the festival on Sunday, Aug. 28 with an all-inclusive faith service hosted by All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation in New London.
“The festival will be about affirming, supporting and bringing everyone to the table,” Day said.
For the first time, he and Ziegler are inviting the community to contribute new ideas and participate in the planning process. Day said the planning committee was approached by someone who offered to provide wedding services at the festival.
Ziegler and Day are seeking more performer and vendor application submissions through the New London Pride page on OutCT.com.
“The beautiful thing about southeastern Connecticut is that this community is resilient, and we have the support of each other,” Ziegler said. “People come out for our youth. We want a safe space for youth. This is a community that loves you. It’s a safe space for your families.”
Day said many connections and longtime friendships have formed through the festival. He said he has seen the Pride event grow, and more people affirmed as their authentic selves each year.
“Many are isolated from their families. Many don’t know love and are fighting for survival,” Day said about the LGBTQIA+ community in general. At the festival, he said, “They get to be themselves and don’t have to be worried about being judged.”
Ziegler and Day hope to increase the number of registrations and vendors this year.
“Our goal for any event is always to bring that one new person in,” Day said. “If I see 200 people, I’ll be happy.”
They also believe the Pride festival is an opportunity for LGBTQIA+ allies who don’t always know where to go for information to gain even greater understanding.
“Allyship is a verb, not a noun,” Ziegler said. “Showing up says you’re an ally.”