Friday, May 11, 2007

Pride Arrives Early In New Hope, Penn.

A soft, fluffy piece about New Hope, Penn., I wrote for this week's issue of the New York Blade. This blogger confesses to have never visited the village. But perhaps now is the time!

With the barrage of Pride celebrations fast approaching, gay and lesbian New Yorkers have a myriad of places across the Tri-State area in where they can celebrate their pink heritage. The city’s gay and lesbian commemorations later next month remains the Grande Dame of local Pride celebrations. But New Hope, in Bucks County, Penn., provides Gothamites their first opportunity of the year to show off their true colors.

The New Hope Celebrates (NHC) festival will take place at various locations throughout the gay friendly village along the west bank of the Delaware River from May 18 through May 20. Festival organizers selected “Somewhere Wver the Rainbow” as this year’s theme in apparent homage to the late diva Judy Garland and her legions of gay fans.

New York DJ Lady Bunny, singers Josh Zuckerman and Scott Nevins, the Glamazons, the Lesbians of Laugher and others are slated to perform at a number of different venues in the village during the three-day festival. The Raven Resort will host a Sunday tea dance with the Flyboys of Flag Troupe Houston and Reichen Lehmkuhl of the “Amazing Race” along with a screening of the critically acclaimed documentary “Saint of 9/11.” A parade will also wind its way through downtown New Hope.

NHC Organizer Terrence Meck said he expects the parade, which is a first for the festival, to draw thousands of local residents and visitors alike.

“There are a lot more activities going on that will appeal to a broader audience,” he said. “It won’t be, by any means, a New York gay pride, but it is exciting because it will be the first parade happening in New Hope.”

NHC chair and part-time New Yorker Daniel Brooks shared this excitement. Brooks, who owns the Wishing Well Guesthouse in New Hope, joined other local innkeepers, merchants and residents to create the festival in 2003 as a way to attract younger gay and lesbian visitors to the village. Less than 1,500 people attended the first Pride, but Brooks expects 3,000 to attend this year’s festival. He also said he expects the event to raise $85,000 for a number of local gay advocacy organizations.

“The impact has been exactly what we had hoped it would be,” Brooks said. “We have definitely seen the number of LGBT people increase. The festival has really helped to generate interest that has always been in New Hope from the gay community.”

Less than two hours from New York, New Hope first became a popular destination for gays and lesbians more than half a century ago. The Bucks County Playhouse, along with the Raven Bar, a number of bed and breakfasts and antique shops are among New Hope’s many attractions.

Gay Philadelphians and others from Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and other cities across the Northeast and the Mid Atlantic descend upon the village each weekend in search of relaxation. A growing number of gay New Yorkers have also found New Hope an attractive alternative to the Jersey Shore, the Catskills, Provincetown and other traditional summer Meccas.

Brooks said the typical New Hope visitor hails from either Northern New Jersey or New York despite the seasonal influx of those seeking an urban escape. But he added the village has grown more popular with people from across the country and beyond.

“We get guests from all over the place—from Europe, from the West Coast,” he said.

Meck agreed. He proudly pointed out that he feels this growing phenomenon is no coincidence.

“New Hope is a much quicker place to get to than the Hamptons or Fire Island,” Meck said. “Over the years it has evolved into a beautiful river town. There is no attitude, and it’s a beautiful place to live.”

Both men credit the festival as one reason New Hope has regained its place on the gay and lesbian travel circuit. Brooks said he expects even more people will discover the laid-back village along the Delaware in the years to come.

“In some cases it is like a reacquainting situation,” he said. “For others who have never been here before it is a brand new experience.”

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