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Gay pride to shine in Queens

One of the most colorful and flamboyant parades in the city is set to return to Jackson Heights next week, and this might be one of the most important years yet.

The 19th-annual Pride Parade will be making its way down 37th Avenue at 11 a.m. Sunday, showcasing the diverse population that makes up the borough’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“Invisibility is our biggest enemy,” said openly gay City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), the founder of the parade. “It’s when people don’t know who gay people are that it is easy to discriminate against them.”

But invisibility should not be an issue Sunday.

Music will blare from elaborately decorated floats as different groups and drag queens will march and wave to the crowd.

“People love the flamboyance of the parade,” Dromm said.

And extravagance is encouraged by five prizes that will be awarded for superlatives like best drag or best sound system.

It is also encouraged by the large number of residents of all colors and sexual orientations who come out to watch the event.

“When the Colombian gay group comes down, all the Colombians cheer them on,” Dromm said. “It has that real community feel to it.”

But there is a serious side to the parade as well.

One of the grand marshals in the parade will be state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who Dromm said was an early supporter of LGBT rights.

“The reason why we have Sen. Avella is because he was one of the first who jumped on the bandwagon for LGBT marriage,” said Hank Krumholz, who co-chairs the parade. “He has always voted for this issue.”

Avella said he was honored to be part of the parade.

“It’s a vibrant event,” Avella said. “I think it’s important because there are still cases of discrimination against the LGBT community, and marriage equality is on the forefront of discussion in Albany.”

Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that marriage equality is one of his top priorities, and on May 26 Mayor Michael Bloomberg advocated in Albany for the same issue.

“I still think we still have a bit of a struggle ahead of us,” Dromm said. “It’s important in Queens that we finally have marriage equality.”

The parade will begin at 85th Street and travel down a lavender line painted on 37th Avenue to 75th Street.

The end of the parade is also where the yearly festival will take place until 5 p.m.

Two stages will provide music and entertainment, with one stage entirely devoted to Hispanic performers from Columbia, Ecuador and the various nationalities that call Jackson Heights home.

“We cater to our audience,” Krumholz said. “Jackson Heights is probably 60 percent Hispanic.”

The other grand marshals for the event will be Miss New York Claire Buffie and the South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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