New Hope celebrates its Pride

by Matthew Ray

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday May 13, 2009

The popular tourist mecca of New Hope will kick-off what merchants and locals hope will be a successful summer season this weekend with the sixth annual New Hope Pride.

Hosted by New Hope Celebrates (NHC), this year's festivities features dance parties with top-named DJs; cabaret and comedy performances; a Pride parade full of surprises; plus softball tournaments, bike rides, historic walking tours and family activities. This year, a strong focus has been placed on being entertaining, and family friendly.

"Each year the pride festival grows in breadth, depth and length," NHC President Daniel Brooks said. "Over 5,000 guests attended last year and experienced our 'something for everybody'--concept events. This year we've added more activities for parents and children, and are pleased to welcome Sesame Place and Gay Parent Magazine to our sponsorship mix."

In the midst of the recession, many LGBT festivals and events have had trouble finding sponsors and donors. In a town with a uniquely broad population and demographic, businesses of all types and backgrounds have offered their support.

"We support the diversity and community of New Hope," Frank Policare, owner of Penn Wealth Planning, said. " We are very proud and excited to be involved in New Hope Pride."

Straight businesses and gay businesses playing together isn't necessarily something recent in New Hope. Located along the route of the old York Road, the former main highway between Philadelphia and New York, New Hope was historically regarded as the half way point where travelers would stay overnight and be ferried across the Delaware River the next morning. By the 1950s, the artist colony that sprung up around the transient inns grew into a popular gay resort. New Hope also is popular among motorcyclists. The blended community has been successful for decades. And Eric Lee, the proprietor of Mystickal Tymes, said he finds New Hope to be the perfect utopia of people of all unique walks of life.

"As a partnered individual for 26 years, we have always been out and open," he said. "New Hope is such a diverse and vibrant community, everyone feels welcome here."

Lee added he feels Pride and other events remain important to the LGBT tourist economy in New Hope.

"New Hope is such a diverse and vibrant community, everyone feels welcome here."

"I believe with the loss of the popular gay bars like the Cartwheel and the Raven, I think for us to show the world our LGBTA [pride,] he said. "It is our duty to the community to participate in the event."

Gary Scibelli at New Hope Shoes organizes NHC volunteers. He was quick to point out he, like Lee, feels the weekend is a can't-miss opportunity.

"It really opens up the doors of local businesses and organizations, and reminds everyone that we are one community," Scibelli said. "The interaction between people is so very important, and it really brings the community together."

Scibelli and Lee both agree business should still support and promote Pride and other events during a challenging economy. And local establishments will almost certainly welcome the added business Pride attendees will generate.

"I think the small stores and boutiques in New Hope are still remaining popular with their loyal clientele, and getting new business," Lee said. "When you espouse certain values, and stand-true in what you believe in - your customers and friends appreciate that. New Hope is that kind of community."

Pride organizers have also done their part to ensure New Hope welcomes visitors. Families are encouraged to march in the parade together, and a variety of games and art activities are planned for all weekend. Organizers have even created an afternoon dance party designed specifically for young people called "Proud to be Families and Friends Afternoon Tea Dance."

"A goal of this year's Pride Weekend is to encourage families with two moms or two dads-as well as their supportive friends and loved ones-to celebrate with their children in a welcoming atmosphere," NHC boad member Lauren J. Weil, who is a mother of two, said.

New Hope Pride takes place from May 15-17. Log onto for a full schedule of activities and events and other information.