By Fernando Alba
Pride doesn’t die in a pandemic. If anything, it gets stronger.
The Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance proved that last Saturday when it held its fifth annual Pride Parade, which it holds every October to celebrate the beginning of LGBTQ+ History Month.
So much of this year’s celebration was changed. It wasn’t held at Trinity Park like in previous years. Instead, the parade shifted to a rolling parade, where participants met at the Durkee Street parking lot and fitted their cars with all sorts of Pride decorations before hitting the parade route that ended at the U.S. Oval.
Executive Director Kelly Metzgar said that leading up to its fifth parade, the ANCGA felt it had the planning process down pat, and that it would do something different for its fifth celebration, but the COVID-19 pandemic presented all sorts of new obstacles for it to navigate.
“I always said for our fifth year that we should do something special,” Metzgar said. “But I never planned on this. This is different.”
When in-person events were being canceled en masse back in March, the ANCGA kept the parade tentatively scheduled for October like usual, hoping that the virus would be under control by the fall. But it wasn’t, so it needed alternatives.
Keene, New York, residents held their own rolling parade back in June earlier this year to celebrate Pride Month. ANCGA members were also there and that’s when Metzgar thought the car parade would be a possible alternative.
“Why can’t we do this in Plattsburgh?” Metzgar said. “We knew we couldn’t hold a traditional event, so this was the best next idea.”
Once plans were in place, it took all of two weeks to get the parade approved by the Clinton County Health Department and the Plattsburgh Police Department, Metzgar said.
“Whatever they told us to do, we did.” Metzgar said.
In order to get the parade approved, regulations like social distancing, wearing masks and staying in or by cars once participants reached the Oval as well as following all traffic laws would have to be in place, Metzgar said.
It was worth jumping through all the hoops to put together this year’s parade because it underscores the reason the ANCGA was started, Metzgar said. Before the ANCGA, there wasn’t an organized LGBTQ+ organization in the North Country doing events like the Pride Parade in the Adirondacks. Events like the Pride Parade show LGBTQ+ members that there is a welcoming community here for them.
That was the case for senior psychology and gender women studies major Antonia Mattiaccio when she first transferred to SUNY Plattsburgh after her freshman year.
“It’s been really nice. There has been surprisingly a community here up North, which I wasn’t sure about at first,” Mattiaccio said about the last three Pride Parades. “It’s a place to feel accepted. Often it’s not visible, people of different genders and sexualities, so it’s really important to have a space to be seen.”
But this year had extra motivation to hold the Pride Parade for the ANCGA and Metzgar.
“For me, LGBTQ spans across every group. But we know right now, the federal government is targeting the LGBTQ community, especially the transgender community. This is a way to say, ‘We’re here. This is important,’” Metzgar said.
After participants reached the U.S. Oval, Plattbsurgh mayoral candidates Chris Rosenquest (D) and Scott Beebie (R) as well as Plattsburgh Town Supervisor Michael Cashman spoke about the importance of holding the Pride Parade in Plattsburgh. Afterward, the annual celebration’s traditional drag show was performed.
“It’s a great honor that I’m invited to be with you all,” Rosenquest said at the Oval. “Representation in our community matters. The diversity in our community matters. Showing our pride and our diversity goes a long way. It’s what we need in our community to show we are a family. We are blended. We are different. That representation goes a long way to explain who we are here in the North Country.”