Pride Festival Boosts LGBTQ+ Vendors

By Marian Jively Fabian

Southern Jersey Gay Pride festival is a place where LGBTQ+ vendors and their allies can promote their businesses to locals in the community. The festival took place September 11 in Cooper River Park. Vendors and locals gathered to support each other and watch the spectacular drag show.

According to the festival organizers, the event is meant to “promote equality, respect, and awareness of causes…such as bullying and hunger.” One of the many things it brings awareness to is the estimated 1.4 million LGBTQ+ run companies in the United States. Many corporations have embraced Pride Month and promote rainbow-colored items through advertising campaigns. However, the attention does not necessarily bring awareness to LGBTQ+ owned businesses or their allies.

Along the long line of vendors in Cooper River Park was Jennifer Wetzel – co-owner of This, That & More. Wetzel said she heard about the festival through a grapevine of vendors. “It’s important to support everybody,” she says. “I have all walks of life in my family.”

The COVID pandemic widened the gap between local and corporate businesses, causing many small business owners to permanently close their doors in 2020. Nearing the river was Shondea Moore – CFO and co-owner of Legacy Homecare Solutions. “With a small business and all of the economic downfall, it’s important for us to be able to support each other and … grow together,” says Moore. “I feel like one hand helps the other. It’s not even just being the LGBT community. It’s really any and everybody.”

If it’s one thing that the coronavirus pandemic did teach us, it’s that buying local is extremely important for the community. It puts money into the local economy and supports workers’ rights.

Jada King, owner of Hi’Key Candles said the festival was a great place to commune with others. “To have my own people support me in my endeavor is a beautiful thing. Without things like this some of us would not be able to leave the ground.”

The event ended with a bang with the crowning of a new drag queen and king and a lip sync performance by Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ icon and Power 99 radio host/personality Muthaknows. Next year’s New Jersey Gay pride festival is already scheduled for September 11, 2022. Vendor applications are currently being accepted.

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