'Celebrating love and joy': Cazenovia hosts 2nd Annual Pride Fest

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CAZENOVIA — Rainbows filled the streets this past weekend to mark the village’s 2nd annual Pride Fest, hosted by the Caz Pride Committee. The festivities were kicked off with the occasion’s first ever pride parade on Saturday.

Several pride attendants — a number of them younger in age — came out to show their support and be themselves. Various LGBTQ flags were waved proudly and their colors adorned many pride-goers' cheeks. Despite chilly temperatures and mists of rain, a certain sort of sunshine was emanating from the crowd.

“We’re just celebrating love and joy,” reflected Travis Barr, a member of the LGBTQ community, Caz native, and local business owner leading the effort to organize Caz Pride. What’s more, Barr said, is there wasn’t just one type of person in attendance; there were all sorts of backgrounds, ages, and identities present, he reflected, which meant a lot for this celebration of togetherness and inclusivity.

“What we’ve been through with the last few years with COVID and politics and feeling divided, and feeling like we’ve lost that sense of being able to communicate and being OK with not agreeing but still supporting one another and loving one another, it’s so nice to have Caz Pride be that thing that brings us together,” Barr remarked.

“In Cazenovia, pride has really become a community event, not a political event,” shared Alex Altomonte, Barr’s partner.

In its second-year run, Caz Pride Fest took off in terms of community engagement, Barr shared. “Last year was great. Attendance exceeded our expectations. As we were planning this year, things sort of just snowballed with certain businesses that I consider true allies really stepped up to the plate in asking to be a part [of it].”

Meier's Creek Brewing Company hosted Drag Bingo — MC'ed by Anita Buffem, a longstanding persona of Barr’s — and the Pewter Spoon Cafe and Loka Leaf Tea Lounge hosted a family brunch, to name a few of the local establishments that offered up their space and resources for the Caz Pride Committee’s events throughout the week.

After the parade, attendants gathered at Lakeland Park to enjoy food trucks and visit different vendors, many of which were LGBTQ support organizations. The Haven at Skanda, a non-profit farm sanctuary in Cazenovia, sought feedback for hosting a potential LGBTQ youth support group for grades 5-7. Other organizations providing resources were Sage Upstate, which offers programs and outreach to counter isolation and improve health for older LGBTQ people, and the YMCA of Central New York, which hosts online creative writing workshops for LGBTQ and gender-nonconformting students and peer supporters.

Performances throughout the day showcased local talent, and speakers encouraged a sense of diversity and empowerment. Those taking the stage included singer-songwriter Violet Taber, Cazenovia High School 9th grader Maeve Kelly, dancer Skyler Grimes, Juneteenth speaker Vonzella Renee McQueen, singers Ethan Coburn, Mary Nickson, and Lindsay Puc, lyricist Hannah Komar, Zumba instructor Vita Reith, performance artist group Honey for the Bees, performer David Lowenstein, and Pastor Anna Gheen of First Presbyterian Church of Cazenovia, who spoke about what it means to be an ally. Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe of the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York shared opening remarks.

The Amy Bradstreet Ally Award was presented to Casey Frazee for her positive contributions in the community and her role in creating change through action and love.

The impact

Fun as the day was, Caz Pride is about more than having a good time, according to event organizers. “For us, Caz Pride is not only to create visibility for the LGBTQ community, but really our core mission is to let the youth know that they’re important and that they’re valid, their experience is valid, and that there’s a place for them. And above and beyond that, to bring everyone together,” Barr shared. “It was so amazing to get so much feedback from kids and families that were very emotional about how much it was needed.”

In the village, many young people face unacceptance from their families due to their identity or sexual orientation, Barr said, and some of these situations have even resulted in homelessness. Barr said giving everyone a safe space is important, and for many, Caz Pride was one of them.

Looking forward

Other fun events like a Prom “do-over” and film festival could be on the horizon along with a pride-flag raising ceremony, as the Caz Pride Committee looks toward the future. The organization is also in the beginning stages of becoming an official nonprofit, Barr shared.

The Prom “do-over” is for “people like me who didn’t get to go to prom with their significant other because it didn’t feel comfortable” and “kids who maybe don’t feel comfortable today going to their prom,” Barr explained. “We have a lot on the vision board and so we’re excited to get into more fundraising to do that.”

Right now, fundraising primarily goes through Barr’s business, H. Grey Supply Co., located at 53 Albany Street in Cazenovia, where people can make donations or purchase official Caz Pride t-shirts to support the cause.

Anyone interested in joining the Caz Pride Committee can contact cazenoviapride@gmail.com. Barr is the committee’s only LGBTQ member, but hopefully that can change as the group expands, he said.

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