‘Doubling in size’: Upper Darby’s Pride festival is back for year two

(AndreyPopov/BigStock)

(AndreyPopov/BigStock)

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Returning for a second year, Upper Darby’s annual pride festival will once again be held at Upper Darby High School on June 11. The free event runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The township’s inaugural Pride Festival was the brainchild of UDTJ — whose name stands for Understanding, Devotion, Take Action, and Justice. The Upper Darby-based social justice organization was founded on issues regarding systemic racism and police brutality.

The group’s focus has expanded, but its mission of making Delaware County more inclusive has remained the same.

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Last year’s event was a success for the organizers. It had more than 40 vendors and more than 350 attendees — even though they only had three weeks to pull it off. This time around, planning began in February.

“This year, we are doubling in size. So far, we do have 90 vendors, we’re securing three food trucks, and we’re going to have about 20 performers. So, we’re really, really excited about this year,” UDTJ board member Dyamond Gibbs said.

From face painting and music to games for kids and dancing, the organizers said that there will be something for everyone.

BJ Bryant, another UDTJ board member, is coordinating the performances.

“We have singers, some poets, some rappers, some dancers — one of our performers is a belly dancer. We also have Philly Cheer Elite,” Bryant said.

However, one of the biggest parts of the event will be saved for last.

“Of course, the big thing will be the drag show at the end of the festival. We have a lot of Philly drag performers and Delco as well,” Bryant said.

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On top of that, the Philadelphia Union donated 30 tickets to their Pride Night game that will be raffled off during the festival. In addition to the fun and games, there will also be time and space at the festival set aside for more serious issues.

Right before the festival opens, there will be a march beginning at noon from Beverly Hills Middle School to the venue.

“We’ll also have a memorial and visual area so that people can pay their respects [to the movement] as well as an educational component to make sure that we’re spreading information about current events and things that are happening in our area,” UDTJ board member Kyle McIntyre said.

He added that the goal of the festival is to create a space for the LGBTQ community in Delco — a place to essentially get connected with not only each other but also with local resources and supportive organizations.

“For a long time in Delaware County, we haven’t really had a space or just a place for LGBTQ youth to just go meet other people, make friends, and just get connected with those resources. A lot of times, people in Delaware County have to Google search online for resources. And then they find out that ‘oh, it’s all the way in Center City,’” he said.

Highlighting an accessibility issue, UDTJ hopes the festival lays the groundwork for “the foundation of a strong vibrant LGBTQ community here in Delaware County.”

Even though it is only in its second year of existence, Upper Darby Pride is already expanding its reach beyond the township. There will be more volunteers this year than last year. With event coordinators already coming from neighboring places like Springfield, Haverford, and Lansdowne, the organizers behind the event are evolving into a “microcosm” of Delco.

“We’ll be transitioning into Delaware County Pride next year,” McIntyre said. “… We just want it to be a place where people can come, enjoy, celebrate, learn, understand, take action, justice — all of our key values that make up UDTJ.”

The UDTJ board members organizing the festival are Upper Darby High School alumni, so their role in creating this space in Delco means a lot to them.

Gibbs recalls those conversations in school with McIntyre about how the area was such a diverse place with “nowhere to go” for anything pride-related.

“We just wanted to take matters into our own hands and bring something that’s worth having to the community that people deserve,” Gibbs said.

Like Gibbs, Bryant feels as though these festivals have been long overdue in Delco.

“I never in all my life thought that I would be able to not just be a part of a pride festival in Upper Darby, but to actually go to one, host one is such a great thing for a community, especially for the younger LGBTQ folks. I know as when I was a kid I always dreamed of going to a pride festival and the closest one at the time was in Philly,” they said.

Bryant added the goal is to not just stop at the pride festival — but to provide more resources for LGBTQ youth across Delco.

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