"It's a celebration of the community in Jersey City and what we've accomplished," said Tarek Cotran, media coordinator for Jersey City Lesbian and Gay Outreach, Inc. (JCLGO), "and it's a unity festival as well."The JCLGO is a voice for LGBTI people who live in Jersey City.
While there has always been a LGBTI community in Jersey City, it wasn't until May of 2001 that a couple, Paul Mendoza and Miguel Cardenes, founded the organization to bring the residents together.
Great weather accompanied the festival, which took place from Washington Street to the Exchange Place Light Rail Station.
"It was a fantastic event," said Walt Boraczek, JCLGO co-chair. "We were hoping for 10,000 people, but last year's attendance was about 5,000. We absolutely exceeded expectations."
The festival, which ran from noon until 8 p.m., featured a venue marketplace with food and merchandise from different vendors. There was also live entertainment, dancing, speeches, and a moment of silence.
Laura Pople, president of the New Jersey Gay and Lesbian Coalition, was the keynote speaker. Mayor L. Harvey Smith and Freeholder Ray Velasquez also gave speeches, and County Executive Tom DeGise made an appearance.
"He [DeGise] wasn't scheduled to speak," said Boraczek. "He just stopped in to say hello."
Entertainment scheduled to go on throughout the day included Cheer New York, a cheerleading group; Scandelle, a local R&B and dance artist; Naked Boy Singing, an off-Broadway production; The Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps, a band; and Miss Gay New Jersey.
MC Jade Esteban Estrada emceed the event and also performed. DJ Louis Morhaim then hosted a dance party from 6 p.m. until the festivities ended at 8 p.m.
To Boraczek, the most memorable portion of the night was the moment of silence where they honored the memory of victims of HIV/AIDS, and Sept. 11. There was also a tribute to Mayor Cunningham.
"The moment of silence was the most meaningful in memory," said Boraczek. "[We're] remembering that many have gone before us, and we're here today because of people who've done so much work, and remembering the pandemic of HIV/AIDS, and remembering that it is a pandemic and that we still need to fight for a cure." Boraczek thanked the volunteers who helped with the festival.
"An event of this size could never happen without an incredible group of volunteers," Boraczek said. "People who've been committed for the last 11 months and even for the last day are the only reason we can put this event together."
The next JCLGO event will be a Halloween party on Oct. 30 at Barrow Mansion. For information visit www.jclgo.com.