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Loud and proud: Lehigh Valley Pride 2022 brings thousands out to celebrate

Lehigh Valley Pride 2022
Jay Bradley
Folks wait in line at a vendor stand Sunday during Lehigh Valley Pride 2022 at the Jewish Community Center in Allentown. (Photo | Jay Bradley / WLVR)

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - For longtime attendees, Lehigh Valley Pride is more than just a celebration. 

At the Jewish Community Center in Allentown, people came in droves Sunday to wear bright colors, don rainbow pins and flags, and celebrate all things LGBTQ+.

For some festival attendees, like Jenna Vicknese and her family, pride is about finding a place in a community. 

“I want my daughter to know that she can love who she loves, and it's OK,” Vicknese said. “I want her to know a community that supports her.”

Throughout the afternoon, music acts and drag performers took to the stage while attendees could get food and art, speak to political organizers, and consult with health care organizations.

“It really is loving,” said Vicknese. “There's so many people here who just come together to show each other love and to support each other.”

However, not all present near the festival were allies. About 20 protesters gathered from the conservative Christian group The American TFP.

Stephen Jiwanmall, communications director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, said the protesters spotlighted the importance of events like Pride for the LGBTQ community. 

“It's really important that we are visible and that our stories remain in the limelight,” Jiwanmall said. “To get people to know that, you know, our movement will continue and LGBTQ+ rights are American rights.”

This was the 29th year for Lehigh Valley Pride, which is organized by the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBTQ Community Center. Thousands attended throughout the afternoon. The theme for the annual celebration was "Be Loud! Be Proud!"

Air Force veteran Candido Garcia said it was a more intimidating time when he came out years ago. He recalled that the first Pride event in Allentown in the 1990s included just a few vendors.

He said it was great that people come out now and not have to feel that same fear.

“It feels great that finally, you know, people are being, reality is being accepted,” Garcia said.

“People are being a part of a society that was negated for so long and abused and oppressed and exploited in many ways. It’s able to come through all that and be stronger than ever -- their rights and their humanity.”

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