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Second annual Pride in the Park at Mathews Park draws hundreds of visitors

By Leslie Lake for the Norwalk Hour

NORWALK — With an 800-foot rainbow flag draped around Mathews Mansion as the backdrop, the second annual Pride in the Park celebration was in full swing on Saturday with a variety of music, food vendors and cultural activities.

Triangle Community Center (TCC) Executive Director Anthony Crisci's goal of making Pride in the Park the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) event in Fairfield County became a reality for the second year as hundreds of people celebrated diversity at Mathews Park.

"This is the only major pride event in June in Connecticut," Crisci said. "Last year we had about 600 people, this year we are expecting over 2,000."

Formerly called the PRIDE Celebration, the event used to be held on the lawn of St. Paul's on the Green. The event is held in conjunction with LGBTQ Pride Month. June has been designated LGBTQ Pride Month due to the June 1969 anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

After a four year layoff, Pride in the Park returned last year with an expanded festival featuring several musical acts as well as a variety of family and cultural activities.

Live musical entertainment on Saturday included Haus of Edwards from Logo TV's Ru Paul Drag Race.

"The flag around the mansion is part of a 6,700 foot flag designed by Gilbert Baker for a special event in Key West," Crisci said.

Baker created the Rainbow Flag, symbol of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender movement in June of 1978.

The Pride event is co-sponsored by (TCC) and World Health Clinicians (WHO), both based in Norwalk.

The all-inclusive, family friendly LGBTQ Pride festival for Fairfield County residents was organized to foster education, raise awareness and create a more visible LGBTQ community.

Along with the party atmosphere with live music, food vendors, and gift items, there was a serious aspect to the event.

"Besides being a celebration for the community and doing something fun, the main purpose of the event is to expose people to the services that we offer," said Crisci. "The Center has support services, case management, supportive housing and health services that target the health disparity in the gay community."

In a welcome statement from Crisci in the Pride in the Park 2015 program he writes:

"Triangle Community Center and World Health Clinicians Pride in the Park is our gift to Fairfield County's LGBTQ community ... While we celebrate Pride and the LGBTQ identity this June ... we cannot forget the health disparities that the LGBTQ community faces. We cannot rest on the laurels of our progress in the legal realm while there is still work to be done in social services: in housing those who need it, in providing access to competent medical care, and ensuring that people have a safe place and a forum to lead happy and healthy lives."

According to a statement from TCC, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, there are currently estimated to be 50,000 LGBTQ people living in Fairfield County.

At the Circle Care Center booth, free and confidential HIV and Hepatitis C testing was available for Pride attendees.

"It's a finger prick and the blood is tested so after 20 minutes, you get a result," said Ron Carroll. "If the test comes back non-reactive then it's negative. It if comes back as reactive, it doesn't necessarily mean you are positive, it just means that you need further testing and we'll get them into the clinic for treatment if needed."

Sponsors for Pride in the Park included: Pepperidge Farm, TD Bank, Hotel Zero Degrees, Two Roads Brewery, Shoff Darby Insurance Agency, General Electric and Prudential.