Bay Ridge becomes ‘GayRidge’ at premier Pride Month picnic

crowd of people with a pride flag at GayRidge
Bay Ridge saw its first annual local Pride celebration on June 4, when local community group GayRidge hosted their first ever Pride picnic.
Arthur de Gaeta

Southern Brooklyn was loud and proud on Sunday, June 8 as hundreds partied Owl’s Head Park in celebration of Bay Ridge’s first formal Pride Month event — an LGBTQIA+ extravaganza aptly dubbed “GayRidge Pride.”

The all-day affair was hosted by a local group of the same name, which was formed two years ago on Facebook and has since hosted a number of events in the neighborhood.

The goal, GayRidge co-admin Laura Albert, was “to provide a space for folks of all ages to feel safe and free to express themselves right here in our neighborhood.”

An estimated 1,000-plus people draped in all colors of the rainbow descended upon Pride Hill on Sunday to enjoy live music, drag story time, games and more. But, Albert said, organizers never worried about turnout.

“When the concept of holding a local Pride Day was initially presented to the GayRidge group, McKenzie expressed that the event would be as large or small as we make it,” Albert said, adding that, in the end, people came from not only the local area, but from across the Five Boroughs.

justin brannan and others at gayridge
Elected officials including Justin Brannan and Andrew Gournades turned out to support GayRidge and the LGBTQ+ community in Bay Ridge. Arthur de Gaeta

Of particular note, Albert said, is the group’s placement in a neighborhood that doesn’t always lean prominently left or right.

“It seems unreal that we had this huge Pride celebration in our backyard, especially in such a politically mixed neighborhood,” Albert said. “We received an outpouring of support from members and allies, who made this event a huge success.”

Local elected officials in attendance included Bay Ridge Councilmember Justin Brannan, state Senator Andrew Gounardes, and Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus. A representative from Governor Kathy Hochul’s office also stopped by and presented organizers with a certificate.

certificate from hochul at gayridge
A representative from Governor Kathy Hochul’s office presented the organizers of GayRidge with a certificate. Arthur de Gaeta

“As someone who grew up in Bay Ridge, finally having an event like this makes my heart sing,” Brannan said. “GayRidge has proudly planted their rainbow flag in our neighborhood and people are saluting.”

Making it all the more meaningful, he said, is that the event “was born entirely from the grassroots – from the local LGBTQ+ community – not foisted on the community by politicians or by a corporation looking to score equality points.”

“And because this event was born from a place of true love, I have a feeling this will be the first of many, many Pride Month celebrations to come,” he said.

young people with pride face paint at gayridge
The small Pride celebration was likely the first of many in Bay Ridge. Arthur de Gaeta

Gounardes also expressed hope that this will be the first of many prideful events in his district.

“It was wonderful to attend the first, hopefully annual, GayRidge Pride Family Picnic,” he said. “It was truly a celebration of community and pride. Congratulations to the planners, and I’m looking forward to many more celebrations in the years ahead.”

Special guests also included Brooklyn Cyclones mascot Sandy the Seagull and emcee King Henry, who donned the team’s rainbow jerseys, which will be worn at the team’s annual Pride Night June 9.

people pose with a rainbow flag on a lawn at gayridge pride
Community group GayRidge held Bay Ridge’s first official Pride celebration on June 4 — and the community hopes it’s the first of many such events. Arthur de Gaeta

Though GayRidge is not yet an official non-profit (founding members say they aim to become one), they are still accepting donations on GoFundMe to pay the Pride event’s volunteers and talent, which will be split equally among those who helped and the performers.

Local businesses also got on board to support the local LGBTQIA+ celebration, including A.L.C. Italian Grocery, Blue Agave, Brooklyn Bay Seafood, The Brooklyn Firefly, Sarava, Take Away Café and Tanoreen — all of which offered 10% off orders delivered right to Owl’s Head Park during the event.

people at gayridge
Community members and organizers said the event was particularly special because it was a grassroots effort — not one funded by corporations. Arthur de Gaeta

The Bay Ridge event served as one of many boroughwide precursors to the 2022 Brooklyn Pride Festival and Parade, taking place on Saturday, June 11 on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope.

The first Pride march in New York City was held on June 28, 1970, on the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, according to the Library of Congress. The first Brooklyn Pride Parade took place on June 14, 1997, becoming the third such march to be organized in New York City after those in Manhattan and Queens.

Additional reporting by Jessica Parks