Allentown, PA – In the early afternoon of August 15, a line of over a thousand people stretched around the block outside the Jewish Community Center in Allentown. They were all waiting to get into Lehigh Valley Pride — an annual celebration of the LGBTQ+ community in the Lehigh Valley area. After last year’s event was held virtually due to coronavirus restrictions, the event welcomed back thousands of patrons in person for its 28th annual festival after organizers made the decision to hold the event in person just ten weeks beforehand due to the lifting of many coronavirus restrictions [Ed Note: and before the recent rise in infections due to the delta variant]. They also had conversations with public health officials to make sure the event was as safe as possible — from providing pocket-sized hand sanitizers and masks to having a booth set up for patrons to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

“We believe it was one of the highest turnouts we’ve ever had,” said Adrian Shanker, the executive director for the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, which hosts the event. “We heard that consistently from people who were there, really raving about how the event felt incredibly vibrant.” Themed ‘You Are Included,’ the event featured 125 artists, nonprofits, faith organizations, civil rights groups, refreshment vendors and various other entities. It also included youth activities, sober social spaces and free health testing — as well as appearances by talents like singer-songwriter Regina Sayles and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” star Ariel Versace

            “It was just an amazing experience to see our community united… not only being safe from the pandemic, but also being able to celebrate in person together,” said Ariel Torres, pride programs manager for the Bradbury-Sullivan Center. “We dedicated a lot of our time, effort, sweat, tears into making this something our community could enjoy, and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome.” Added Shanker, “the experiences of social isolation and loneliness during COVID were really exasperated in the LGBTQ+ community. Our community really needed the opportunity to come together and celebrate pride this year.” (Philadelphia Gay News – Victoria Ebner at https://epgn.com/2021/08/25/high-turnout-and-enthusiasm-for-lehigh-valley-pride/)

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