Jersey Pride is back for its 30th celebration. Here’s what to expect.

After a “two-year hiatus,” NJ residents prepare for the return of the 30th Annual New Jersey Statewide LGBTQ+ Pride Celebration This weekend.

The festivities will begin at 11 a.m. in Asbury Park on Sunday, June 5. Often people will come early to mark off an area in The Rally, site of a 6-hour concert, according to Laura Pople, one of Jersey Pride’s main organizers. .

The parade begins at noon from the municipal building at Asbury Park Town Hall, exiting the municipal parking lot and other parts of the initial staging area. The parade will head south on Main Street, turn left on Cookman Avenue, then left on Grand Avenue. It will continue north on Grand Avenue to Sunset Avenue, turning right and entering the grounds where the festival will be in full swing and rally activity will follow.

Admission to the festival and rally ground costs $15, and this year is the first year attendees can pay the fee by credit card, according to the festival website. In order to access the festival and rally grounds, food court, family area and entertainment opportunities, attendees must pay the fee.

The family zone consists of performers conforming to family-friendly sets, which can mean that some lyrics or songs are cut or changed to follow that standard, Pople said. There are also carnival rides available in this area. Pople said the festivities are kid- and pet-friendly — as long as the pets are well-behaved. There will be several rescue vendors and other pet vendors participating in the festival, so pet participation is strongly encouraged.

The rally will take place on the east side of Bradley Park, which is adjacent to the Paramount Theatre. It will begin at 1 p.m. when the parade leaders enter the field and will continue until approximately 6 p.m.

The rally’s headliners will be performers Janice Robertson and Gia Woods, with comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer as emcee. Westenhoefer was the host 30 years ago at New Jersey’s first Pride celebration, and Pople said organizers were thrilled to have her back. Other featured artists include Christine Martucci and the Band of Love, Rich Hennessy and Josh Zuckerman.

Those performing at the Rallye this year will have longer sets to avoid having multiple teams on stage between acts. Generally, Jersey Pride opens up to local bands to give them exposure during the rally, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, it has been decided that the rally will have fewer performers. Additionally, the event grounds have been expanded to allow for greater social distancing.

Pople said elected officials often come out to speak to the crowds, and she expects them to be there this year.

Bank of America, the celebration’s lead sponsor, will introduce a moment of silence to acknowledge the millions lost to COVID, as well as those lost to the ongoing AIDS epidemic.

Project AIDS Memorial Quilt will have an outdoor display (weather permitting) of panels with the names of New Jersey residents lost to the epidemic. Signs will also be carried by community groups throughout the parade.

Jersey Pride recommends attendees be up to date with their vaccinations prior to the event, but it is not required. Masks will be provided at the gates upon request, and there will be sanitary stands where people can use hand sanitizer.

Since “Pople’s crystal ball is wrapped somewhere,” she isn’t sure how the celebration’s two-year hiatus will impact attendance this year. However, advance registration for the two participating parade groups is higher than in previous years.

“With a really rocking lineup, and so many people planning to go on the parade and go to the festival, I think our crowds are going to be really good,” Pople said.

Pople and other organizers had to “get the cobwebs out” after two years without in-person Pride festivities, but they were excited to get back into the planning ebb and flow.

“It’s a remarkable group of people working on this event,” Pople said. “We are all volunteers. Everyone does this on top of their job, their life, and everything that’s going on in the world around them – and they still take time. It’s an incredible amount of effort.

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Sarah Dolgin can be contacted at [email protected].

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