Village of Northport kicks off Pride Month with flag raising

Village of Northport kicks off Pride Month with flag raising

Northport hosted it’s first annual Pride Flag Raising Ceremony last week at village hall. Photo courtesy of Joe Schramm

By Leah Chiappino

Northport Pridefest kicked off its month-long celebration of Pride Month June 1 with a ceremonial Pride flag raising at Northport Village Hall.

The flag raising was accompanied by four churches ringing their bells for two minutes, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic congregations, as “a celebration that God loves us all,” according to Pridefest’s co-director Joe Schramm whose company, Schramm Marketing Group, is producing the event in partnership with the village.

Northport hosted it’s first annual Pride Flag Raising Ceremony last week at village hall. Photo by Leah Chiappino

“There’s often been a lot of pushback from religion, religious groups, and the church bells basically told us that those groups don’t necessarily represent the organized religions of America,” Schramm said.

Following the flag raising, there was a 30-minute ceremony. About 125 people attended, according to Schramm, including Northport Village Mayor Donna Koch; Asharoken Mayor Dr. Greg Letica; Northport Village trustee Meghan Dolan, a co-director of Pridefest; trustee Dave Weber, the first openly LGBTQ+ elected official in Northport Village history; former trustee Henry Tobin; Northport Village Chief of Police Chris Hughes; Huntington Town Supervisor Ed Smyth (R); Huntington’s Receiver of Taxes Jillian Guthman (D); and Huntington Town councilmembers Joan Cergol (D), Dave Bennardo (R) and Sal Ferro (R). Suffolk County Legislator Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport) sent a representative, and State Assemblyman Keith Brown (R-Northport) sent a statement. Also in attendance was Juli Grey-Owens, the chairperson of Suffolk County LGBTQ+ Advisory Board and executive director of Gender Equality NY. 

 “What is really amazing to me is that all those elected officials came from the village, town, county, and state, to say that they embrace the LGBTQ+ and are here to stand by us and safeguard our rights to live and love as we wish,” said Schramm.

A resident of Northport for 23 years, the area has always been a safe and welcoming place for Schramm.

“I think that Northport has long been a very accepting and inviting welcoming community for the LGBT communities,” he said. “And so I moved here 23 years ago because I knew that. … And I know that in recent years … quite a few LGBT members have moved here from other parts of New York City or Long Island because they know that Northport, it’s not only beautiful, it’s a really welcoming and safe community for the LGBT people who identify.”

Schramm, who is the first vice president of the Northport Chamber of Commerce, said several members have been talking about having an event like Pridefest for several years.

“We have people put out pride flags and, the like, but there’s never been a concerted effort to work together,” he said.

He approached Dolan, who also serves as the village commissioner of parks with the idea. Dolan was having “conversations internally at village hall,” about doing an event for Pride month.

“We came together and said, ‘Well, let’s make this happen.’” Schramm said.

Schramm contacted fellow village residents he knew were members of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as Koch, whom he said came onboard the right way. Planning meetings were held at village hall, and the group grew to nearly 50 volunteers, from the LGBTQ+ community, along with parents of LGBTQ+, and allies. 

Northport Pridefest’s mission contains six key goals: “Celebrate LGBTQ+ history; embrace the various segments that define LGBTQ+, inform the LGBTQ+ community of services available to them, educate the public about LGBTQ+ issues, empower the protection of equal rights and inspire leadership and cooperation.”

Pridefest in the Park, the second Pridefest event will be held June 17, in the Village Park.

“[The flag raising] was a little bit more formal, and Pridefest in the park will be a lot more fun,” said Schramm. 

Featuring a pre-tea “afternoon music festival,” the event will kick off at 1 p.m. with the national anthem, followed by a short concert by the Long Island Gay Men’s Chorus and a DJ. At 2 p.m. LGBTQ+ youth will speak on the six components of the mission statement. The program will close with a performance by the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company. There will also be vendors, and the Northport Historical Society Museum will be running its The PRIDE! Pop-up Exhibit. Some restaurants on Main Street will be promoting “tea” drink prices.