Long Island’s Babylon Village celebrated its first ever Pride parade on Sunday, June 29.
The socially-distanced friendly event took the form of a car parade, with participants riding through the village’s downtown in vehicles festively decked out in rainbows, pom poms, balloons, and inflatable unicorns.
“It was absolutely beautiful,” parade co-organizer, Roman, tells GO. “I turned the corner from Main Street to Deer Park Avenue where the parade kind of officially started and there were over 500 people – all socially distancing and being appropriate with masks and stuff like that – but spread out throughout Deer Park Avenue with their flags and with their children and their families. It was not just one type of person, it was a diverse group. It was amazing.”
Roman, a Babylon native, describes the parade as a labor of love five years in the making. After spending much of their life in California, where celebrations were woven into the fabric of many local communities, Roman returned to their more conservative hometown to discover that most locals who celebrated Pride did so by heading into the city, or to Fire Island. Along with Babylon Pride co-organizer, Bob McKeown, a teacher in West Babylon, Roman decided to change things.
Getting approval for the parade hasn’t been easy, but this year, Roman says that the efforts were helped, ironically, by the shutdown. Although the town tends to be more on the conservative side, the need for celebration – and the number of other car-related parades that are taking place across the nation – helped pave the way for progress.
“Now more than ever with the current climate of the world and how we are changing, though the changes may be tough, they are definitely necessary,” Roman says. “And so Babylon took on that change with finally saying, ‘Let’s do a Pride parade’, we need a rainbow at the end of all this trouble.”
Vehicles in the parade were entered by Babylon residents and local businesses, each tasked with decorating their own ride. The results, Roman says, were both fabulous and impressive, including unicorn costumes, confetti cannons, and Trans Rights flags. “It was so refreshing and nice to see that,” Roman says of the efforts. “You had one job and that was to show what Pride meant to you and you really showed it.”
When they first returned five years ago, Roman remembers that the transition back to their hometown had been rough, although mostly because of how they internalized moving into a new environment as a gender non-conforming person. “I kind of stand out like a sore thumb,” they joke. But immersing themselves into local life, and becoming visible in the local landscape, helped make the move – and acceptance – easier. “[Locals] see that I’m not this cartoon character, or I’m not this animation that’s created in some other media outlets. They see that I’m a real person with real feelings.”
The turnout for yesterday’s parade, they believe, is further proof of the progress Babylon has made toward becoming a more accepting and diverse community. Although it’s too early to speculate on what next year’s celebrations will look like, Roman is hoping that Babylon’s Pride will continue to grow into a signature event for the town, and for the rest of Long Island.
“We really made a moment,” they say. “We made history by having the first ever Pride parade in the town of Babylon. And it really did change the way people are going to move forward.”