Asbury Park Takes Pride to the Beach

Asbury Park on June 1. | MICHAEL LUONGO

Asbury Park on June 1. | MICHAEL LUONGO

Jersey Pride’s 23rd edition kicked off in Asbury Park on Sunday June 1, with 20,000 total participants, according to the group’s president, Laura Pople. The beach resort was selected as the site, she explained, because “we wanted something that said New Jersey, and the boardwalk, with the Jersey Shore, was something that would iconically do so.”

The festival outside the Convention Hall. | MICHAEL LUONGO

The festival outside the Convention Hall. | MICHAEL LUONGO

Even New Yorkers weren’t arguing with that. David Schneider, who is planning the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion for Heritage of Pride here, said, “You have the parade and you have the beach. What more can you ask for?”

Singer Lexi Tellings and her dancers. | MICHAEL LUOGO

Singer Lexi Tellings and her dancers. | MICHAEL LUOGO

And Californian Chris Nelson from Dana Pointe in Orange County, a city famed for surfer culture, was at the pool party in the Empress Hotel, a center of gay life in Asbury Park, and said, “It’s the same vibe I feel at home. I’m actually thinking about moving here.”

Headliner Thelma Houston. | MICHAEL LUONGO

Headliner Thelma Houston. | MICHAEL LUONGO

Thelma Houston was the evening’s highlight at a stage show held in front of the city’s 1920s Convention Hall a block from the boardwalk. Democrat Reed Gusciora, the state’s only out gay Assembly member — famously called “numbnuts” by Governor Chris Christie during that state’s debate over marriage equality — reminded the audience that while New Jersey had many LGBT rights advances, “we still have to work on AIDS as an issue.”

Everyone had a ball. |MICHAEL LUONGO

Everyone had a ball. |MICHAEL LUONGO

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