Pride Day at the NYS Fair Remembers the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riot in NYC

Aug 23, 2019

The New York State Fair is celebrating “Pride Day” with a parade that will span the midway to Chevy Court.  Organizers are hoping visitors will take part in the festivities in support of the LGBTQ community.  This year’s honored guest, Martin Boyce of New York City is sharing his experience at the Stonewall Riot which happened at a popular gay bar 50 years ago in 1969.  That’s where police raided the bar, but he says patrons fought back.

Stonewall Riot Veteran Martin Boyce and Michael Leonelli of CNY Pride at the NYS Fair.
Credit John Smith/WAER News

“They had a vice squad of very good looking men who would isolate you and tried to get you to do something and then arrest you.  And sometimes they enjoyed it... they’d still arrest you.  It was ugly and corrupt and corroded.  It was ugly world for gay people… a film noir world but, nonetheless there was always hope and that hope exploded into Stonewall, into some sort of protest.   I thought we’d be punished severely for this riot and we weren’t.  It became a verb for action.”

Boyce says he and other gay youth were prepared that day.  As a teen, he and others experienced several raids.  After seeing the Pride Flag being raised at the Fair, he recalls growing up across the street from the U-N and how times have changed for the better.

“Many hopes, many cheers and much optimism but, never saw a gay flag raised… that alone.  Or just being up here (visiting Syracuse).  When I was in New York, I would meet people from Syracuse, Rochester and they had to leave, now they can stay.  They have choice.  And it all comes under the umbrella of human rights, not just gays.  This is the real core of the thing because it can’t be just us, it has to be justice.”

Martin Boyce.
Credit John Smith/WAER News

Having a “Pride Day” at the Fair is an opportunity to meet organizations like CNY Pride.  Michael Leonelli says they welcome everyone.

“It’s huge for us to reach out.  You don’t have to identify as LGBT but, you can still come in and support us and that’s the big thing that people just don’t understand.  Then, they realize we’re working with healthcare providers to make sure people are treated fairly and safe.  We work with local businesses to do safe space training to make sure that people who do come in what’s right, what’s wrong.  It’s ok if you didn’t know but, we’re here to help you learn that.”

Booths and flags are set up at the Chevy Court pavilion.  Martin Boyce will speak at the Empire Room at 4:30 PM and the Pride Parade is tonight at 6.  Marchers will assemble on the midway and march to the court.

A look inside the Chevy Court Pavillion during Pride Day.
Credit John Smith/WAER News