Niagara County Pride and the City of Niagara Falls will hold a modified pride flag-raising ceremony at 2 p.m. June 1 at Niagara Falls City Hall.
This year, Mayor Robert Restaino will accept the pride flag from Niagara County Pride group leader Ronald Piaseczny on behalf of the city. The flag will then be hung inside City Hall and on display throughout the month of June. In addition, the City of Niagara Falls’ website will be updated to reflect that Niagara Falls recognizes June as Pride Month.
Given the current health concerns and need for social distancing, along with other COVID-19-related logistics, both the city and Niagara County Pride agreed holding an event with a crowd this year would not be wise. However, both organizations wanted to uphold this longstanding tradition and find a way to do it that is safe for all and still honors the LGBTQ community.
In prior years, LGBTQ community members and allies were invited to attend the public ceremony that marked the start of the Pride Month. Historically, Paul Dyster, the previous mayor of Niagara Falls, would speak along with prominent LGBTQ community members and raise the pride flag at on the City Hall flagpole.
“Given that this year, we had to cancel our three-day Niagara County Pride Festival that was slated for the end of June, it is important we still find ways to celebrate pride,” Piaseczny said “For many in the LGBTQ community, it is often difficult to find accepting and affirming community businesses, medical providers, places of worship, and safe spaces. Isolation like that can lead to depression and a deep sense of loneliness. Especially now, while we are all socially distancing and isolating. For some LGBTQ folks, they might be in households right now where they are not accepted or are experiencing some level of abuse. It is important, that now, more than ever, organizations like Niagara County Pride and the City of Niagara Falls show our support and celebrate our community’s rich diversity, while spreading the message, ‘You are not alone!’ ”
Over the past several years, Niagara County Pride has served as the only LGBTQ social organization for the entire county. It has hosted several successful and free events that have been open to all LGBTQ and allies community members in WNY, including a mass wedding ceremony in Niagara Falls State Park and Pride Street Festival (June 2019), an annual Pride Summer Picnic, and an annual all-inclusive Thanksgiving dinner. It monthly meetings have served as a community resource for individuals to be able to have a safe space and accepting place to meet one another, share stories, and build lasting connections.
Niagara County Pride has converted its monthly social group meetings and support group meetings into online meetings. Virtual Niagara County Pride meetings are held at 6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursday of every month.