2018-05-31 / Front Page

First Annual Pride Event Revs Up

By P. Udoma

Preparations are in full swing for the first annual Newport Pride event in the city, the weekend of June 23. NewportOUT, a local business and philanthropic organization hosting the event, along with a group of enthusiastic Newport businesses, has thrown its hat in the ring to bring the LGBTQ celebration to the city.

“[The first] Newport Pride has been evolving very fast and in a very exciting way,” said Sean O’Connor, co-owner of NewportOUT with husband, Daniel Cano Restrepo. The two took over the company in March and will continue in its tradition of promoting the city as a travel destination to the LGBTQ community and lending their support to youth causes such as the annual “Born This Way” prom.

“RI Pride is very Providence-centric, and we saw an opportunity to include Newport in the month-long pride celebration across the country,” said O’Connor. “We felt that there was a desire for that.”

NewportOUT’s website educates its visitors as well as drawing them to the area to partake of the city’s offerings. “[The] LGBT+ community,” it says, “is a broad umbrella term that includes people who identify as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, trans, or other gender/sexuality expansive identities… people within the LGBT+ community come from all walks of life.”

Being accepted and granted the same human rights as heterosexual people in society is the foundation of the gay rights movement and of Gay Pride, which is the celebratory aspect of it and takes place across the world each year. In the U.S., Gay Pride events most often occur in June, but elsewhere, in other months. Moscow, for example, marks the anniversary of Russia's 1993 decriminalization of homosexuality, each May.

NewportOUT and friends will be at RI Pride in Providence the weekend before Newport Pride, representing the City by the Sea, but, says O’Connor, it was imperative for Newport to have its own Pride celebration.

“This is not only for the LGBTQ community, but also our allies. There is a very strong community of allies in Newport.”

Evidence of this is the outpouring of support by local businesses and individuals seeking to get involved in the event.

After O’Connor and Restrepo put out the first call about the potential event the week of May 21, there were 700 responses of interest in the first 24 hours. That was enough to propel them toward making this happen. They’re filing their paperwork with the city and will be eagerly awaiting their permits, as the event is only three-plus weeks away.

Michael Evangelisti and his husband and business partner, Will DeYoung, co-owners of Soap & Water and the Sail Loft, have committed their sponsorship of the event.

"We wanted to get involved. We think it's nice to see Pride moving from big cities like Boston, New York, and Miami to smaller cities like Newport. There's a vibrant community [here].”

Parlor Bar & Kitchen restaurant and Bike Newport are also confirmed partners with NewportOUT for the weekend event, and other local businesses and organizations are throwing their support to its creation and sponsorship. The NewportOUT Facebook page is receiving hundreds of enthusiastic offers from potential sponsors and vendors, some of whom may include Bowen's Wharf, Sea Meets Sand, and Sephora. O’Connor is confident that there will be many more.

The celebration, set to take place on both June 23 and June 24, will include, in addition to the family bike ride, a drag brunch starring the Trailer Park Girls, a Providence-based theater group, and a Sunday festival portion, potentially at Equality Park, with vendors and “tabling.” On Sunday as well, there could be an LGBTQ+ allies sail on the schooner Aquidneck, at 4 p.m. from Bowen's Wharf. The wharf may also be the site of the post-bike ride reception.

However, it’s all still in the planning stages, and managing the queries, logistics, and formalities is keeping everyone busy. “It feels big, exciting, and a little bit scary,” said O’Connor.

When he and Restrepo took over NewportOUT, the former owner shared with them a letter to the editor of a local paper from a writer with what O’Connor calls “more traditional values,” who said that they should “take [their] gay stuff back to Provincetown.”

“Might there be people in this community who have similar thoughts and sentiments?” said O’Connor. “Yes, of course. They might feel their own sense of marginalization about their own views, though, given how much things have changed,” he said.

“Might we see backlash? We might. But we’re Newport. We’re never going to be Provincetown. They have their own distinct culture and history and so do we.”

Evangelisti says that Newport is ready for Pride and that the city will receive it well.

“I think one of the nicer things about Newport is that there's almost no need to have Pride the way we used to need it, when we had to fight for our rights, because the whole community is so accepting of the gay community. Something we can all be proud of."

To volunteer your time, be a vendor or sponsor, or for more information about the Newport Pride schedule, call Sean O’Connor at 202-222-8921, visit newportout.com. or check out NewportOUT’s Facebook page. You can also email them at sean@newportout.com.

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