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EXCLUSIVE: LGBT New Yorkers Celebrate Pride and Resilience At The Center’s Annual Garden Party

by Rob Smith June 21, 2016


The LGBT Center’s annual Garden Party tasting event kicked off pride week last night, and Queerty was on the scene. The benefit brings LGBT New Yorkers and allies to Pier 84 for tastings and specialty cocktails with a picture-perfect backdrop on the Hudson River, and we were able to catch up with representatives from the Center and volunteers who donated their time to the event.

Tickets go for $100 and include unlimited tastings and multiple open bars, and proceeds go towards funding and programming for the LGBT Center.

IMG_4327While we expected the mood to be more somber in the wake of the Orlando tragedy, we were pleased and a bit surprised to find the opposite. Security at the gate was definitely more enhanced than in years past, a subtle reminder of what will be the new normal for events like this in the near future.

The tragedy was on everyone’s minds, but for the volunteers, attendees, and Center representatives that we spoke to, it’s very important to remember what pride is all about.

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 11.22.21 AM

We caught up with LGBT Center Executive Director Glennda Testone, who oversees initiatives and operations for the pride center. As Glennda told me, it’s important for the community to come together for pride month even in the wake of tragedy:

“I think it’s really important for our community to come together, to support each other, to dance, to celebrate and be proud of who we are.”

IMG_4322Vendors like Hill Country Barbecue, Luke’s Lobster, Empanada Mama and many more donated their time and treats for the event. The Hill Country brisket was pretty much everything, and the shrimp rolls from Luke’s Lobster were delicious if not an 11 on the scale of 1 to “a bit too much butter.”

Glennda says the response from donors and vendors has been overwhelming:


“People want to do what they can to support our community, and that goes for allies, donors, and fellow community members. People just want to come together and feel a part of the LGBT community. It’s a really happy event after a really sad week.”


IMG_4348 (1)The Smirnoff cocktails and Barefoot wine was definitely flowing, and we got a chance to chat with volunteer bartender Alexander Lopez as he poured us a cocktail. The 26-year-old associate from Shearman and Sterling LLP told us he jumped at the opportunity to work at the event:



“They offered us the opportunity to volunteer, and it seemed like a great way to get out of the office, celebrate pride, and meet some new people.”

For Lopez, the Garden Party is not only a great event, but an important way to show solidarity and visibility post Orlando:

“It’s an opportunity to build community, to get together as one, and in light of Orlando it’s easy for people to not want to come out, but it’s so important to get out and come to events like this, and to still be present.”


We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

As the sun went down and the DJ continued playing into the night (or 10PM, it was a Monday), seeing the hope, celebration, and community building with our own eyes definitely gave us a new perspective on partying for a cause. Well done, Garden Party 2016. We’ll see you next year.

Rob Smith
Rob Smith


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