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Taking pride to the streets

Johnna MacDougall dances with Soma Beats in the Tri-Lakes Pride parade on Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

SARANAC LAKE — In the middle of the third annual Tri-Lakes Pride event on Sunday, a brief but powerful rainstorm hit Riverside Park.

After everyone huddled under the tents dotting the park for a few seconds, Eli Reid and his girlfriend Jasmine, of Plattsburgh, walked out and started to dance in the downpour. A few more people joined in. Soon enough, half of the crowd in the packed park were out, braving the rain and kicking their feet up to Patti LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade” and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”

This was a representation of the philosophy many of the LGBTQIA-plus people at the event talked about — no matter how much someone wants to rain on their parade, they said they’re going to dance anyway.

“Have fun and do what you like,” said Aaron G., a Saranac Lake ninth grader who performed in drag at Pride under the name Violet Knights. “Do not let anyone ruin that.”

Recent Saranac Lake High School graduate Jelley Taylor said Pride is needed for people to understand each other, rather than to be separate.

Randi Renate waves to friends from a boat in the Tri-Lakes Pride parade on Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Randi Renate said life for queer people in the Tri-Lakes can be difficult. A lot of people have shouted things at her and her friends on the sidewalk.

“But there’s strength in numbers,” Renate said.

Renate has been trying to build a queer community since she moved to the Tri-Lakes four years ago and said she has finally found a “crew.” This crew rode a boat through the Pride parade, blowing bubbles and dancing on the vessel. One of Renate’s friends, Kit Morgan, moved here in 2021.

“Since I’ve been here I’ve realized that the Adirondacks are a lot more queer than I think folks realize,” Morgan said.

He said the Adirondacks is an insulated area, which is beautiful, but it has also limited people’s language to navigate their attractions and identities. These are more complex that people realize, he said, adding that it is exciting to see Tri-Lakes Pride grow.

Elaine Dewar dances with the Canoodlers in the Tri-Lakes Pride parade on Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Morgan said his favorite part of the Adirondacks is its supportive community.

“It’s not about elevating some people above another. Instead, it’s about saying ‘we’re all here to support each other and keep each other safe,'” Morgan said. “We’re just all Adirondackers at the end of the day.”

Dayna Studnicky traveled from Pottersville to come to her third Tri-Lakes Pride. She said it is an easy place to come and make new friends. With small communities all over the area, it is great to come together and build community together, she added.

“We didn’t have this growing up,” Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance Executive Director Kelly Metzgar said, speaking of the Pride event.

Sean McConnell, who performs in drag under the name Mhisty Knights, said when he lived in Saranac Lake years ago there wasn’t much of an out gay scene.

A pair of Lawn Chair Ladies dance in the Tri-Lakes Pride parade on Main Street in Saranac Lake Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

“If I lived here now, this would be amazing,” McConnell said.

Still, he added that at events like this, people are more “out” than in other parts of their lives.

“A lot of us, at work or at school, have to ‘tone it down,’ because of bullying and hatred,” McConnell said.

“The statistics show that LGBTQ folks are at a higher rate of receiving violence,” Morgan said. “That’s why it’s really important to be having that safety in our community.”

McConnell said he got “emotional” seeing the recent action by local teens to address anti-LGBTQIA-plus actions and statements.

Amber Skyy, the reining Miss Adirondack North Country Pride, smiles to cheering crowds in the Tri-Lakes Pride parade on Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

“I’m so proud of them,” McConnell said. “To see them expressing themselves and actually standing up for themselves and not allowing the bullies on the school board, so to speak, to dictate what they say … it makes me happy. This new generation coming up, they’re a force to be reckoned with. It gives a lot of hope to us geriatrics.”

Renate said the local community should be welcoming and not “othering.”

“Now is a very crucial time for LGBTQIA-plus rights because we have an election coming up and some rights are going to be in danger,” Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance member and Plattsburgh city counselor Jennifer Tallon said.

Margot Gold told attendees to flip over their ballot on Election Day, Nov. 5, to vote on the Equal Rights Amendment proposition on the back. She said this will not change any laws, but will enshrine them in the state constitution.

“By putting it in the constitution, it is the strongest protection we have in New York state,” Gold said. “If there is a change in the legislature or the governor, they will not be able to turn back our rights.”

Teens march in the Tri-Lakes Pride parade in Saranac Lake Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

These protections also apply to ethnicity, age, race and people with disabilities.

This festival comes as a record 527 anti-LGBTQIA-plus bills have been proposed in state houses throughout the country so far this year, according to the ACLU. These bills target the rights, healthcare, sports and art of LGBTQIA-plus people.

Adirondack North Country Association Executive Director Elizabeth Cooper read a speech from Adirondack Diversity Initiative Executive Director Tiffany Rae-Fisher at the festival. Rae-Fisher said she thinks a lot about freedom. Her great-great-great grandmother was born on a plantation.

“For those of us who have had our human rights disputed by the Supreme Court, we understand the meaning of this gathering,” Rae-Fisher said. “If you have never had your rights disputed by the Supreme Court, that is deep privilege.”

She said people who haven’t experienced this should come celebrate as allies, and that she is proud to be a queer Adirondacker.

“No matter what the political climate is, we’ll be here,” McConnell said. “They can’t stop us.”

Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance Executive Director Kelly Metzgar amps the crowd up before the parade at Tri-Lakes Pride on June 30. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Zack Scribner, left, dances in the rain with dozens of other people at Tri-Lakes Pride on Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Aaron G., a Saranac Lake ninth grader, performed in drag at Tri-Lakes Pride under the name Violet Knights on Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Norah, 7, gets he face painted by recent Saranac Lake High School graduate Katie Ransom at Tri-Lakes Pride on Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Bingo V. crosses the stage to show off a brightly-colored shirt during the fashion show at Tri-Lakes Pride on Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Angel waves to the crowd after crossing the stage during the fashion show at Tri-Lakes Pride on Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

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