Joanie Lewis of Catasauqua stood happily in front of the mural.
“Be loud, be proud. Be you,” reads the mural, designed by artist Emily Fowler of Wallingford, Delaware County.
Lewis admitted that the idea of celebrating being gay was difficult as a child.
“We still have a long way to go, but I’m proud to be here,” said Lewis, who was wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with the words “full of pride.”
Lewis was among more than 3,000 people who turned out for Sunday’s Lehigh Valley Pride held at the Lehigh Valley Jewish Community Center in Allentown. From headliners to a dog park, the 29th annual celebration of LBGTQ culture, arts and community had something for everyone.
“It’s an act of love,” said Stephen Jiwanmal, director of communications and marketing for the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, which hosts the event.
“Be loud! Be proud” was the theme that began with the march of the Philadelphia Freedom Band.
The Pride featured several entertainment features featuring national and local drag acts, including Pride Grand Marshal Elektra Fears St. James, and musical performances by D’Nee Allen and Ryan Cassata.
As usually happens at the parade, the weather was typical for the end of August with hot heat and humidity. This year, Pride offered a new cooler tent with free water and a chance to rest.
New this year: puppies participating in the parade have their own place to hang out in the festival’s dog park. Dan Ziobra and Bob Tear of Bethlehem brought their dog Lewis to Pride. Unfortunately, the heat made it difficult for Lewis to communicate.
Across campus, the JCC had more than 150 vendors, including LGBTQ-affirming retailers, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, social justice organizations, social service agencies, and more. The festival had fun activities for children, a special space for teenagers to hang out, and plenty of festival food and drink options.
It was the first time Juan Maldonado Rodriguez of Allentown attended the parade. He and his partner, Brian Velez of Allentown, were thrilled to see the drag show.
But it was also about being in a welcoming, affirming space.
“Pride is a celebration of who you are,” Rodriguez said.