City to honor Gay Pride, Juneteenth on June 19

WATERTOWN — The city will raise flags in front of City Hall to honor local Gay Pride and Juneteenth events on the same day this year.

Organizers of the Gay Pride events hope that the flag raising in front of City Hall on June 19 will attract the same kind of crowd it did in 2019. Last year, a smaller event was held to raise the Gay Pride flag because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s exciting just to see everyone in person and celebrate together,” said Mark Irwin, one of the organizers.

On the same day that the Gay Pride flag will be going up, a Pan-African flag will be raised in front of City Hall to honor Juneteenth, the annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

City officials said the flag raising will be held as one event. It’s the first time that the Pan-African flag will go up in front of City Hall, since the local Juneteenth celebration was first held in 2014.

City officials think the crowd will be bigger this year with the two held on the same day. The event will start at 9 a.m.

The Juneteenth celebration will be held online this year, which includes a guest speaker and videos of poetry readings, songs and music, and dance performances. C.R. Gibbs, a lecturer, author of six books and historian, will be the main speaker during the event that can be viewed online on June 19.

Bianca Ellis, a Juneteenth organizer, said she’s still putting together the schedule of events.

In its third year, Watertown Pride! has scheduled a weekend of events for the local LGBTQ community after last year’s weekend was canceled because of the pandemic. This year’s events will be June 18-20, with a kickoff at the Paddock Club.

After the flag raising, a color-blast fun 5K run will be held at noon in Thompson Park with vendors and other activities running until 3 p.m. A drag show will be held at 6:30 p.m., followed by fireworks at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds at 10 p.m. A tea dance will held on Sunday at Garland City Beer Works.

Organizers are still looking for donations and to take a look at the events by texting NNYPride to 44321.

In 2019, between 400 and 500 people took part in the Gay Pride flag raising in front of City Hall. That year, a local man made a threatening remark against the local LGBTQ population.

Gay Pride Month was initially inspired by the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York City and works to achieve equal justice and opportunity for LGBTQ Americans. The purpose of the month is to recognize the impact that LGBTQ individuals have had on society locally, nationally and internationally.

Ms. Ellis mentioned that African Americans were involved in the Stonewall Uprising in 1969 and hoped community members can come together to celebrate both Gay Pride and Juneteenth.

“It’s an opportunity to demonstrate unity throughout the community,” she said.

Seven years ago, the local Juneteenth event was organized by Fort Drum soldiers, area veterans and churches and activities were held at the fairgrounds.

Last year, Juneteenth became a state holiday.

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