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December 05, 2016
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Out, loud and proud

Sixties activist and musical icon Joan Baez returned to the site of the original Woodstock Music Festival 44 years later to perform in the Pavilion at Bethel Woods.

Before moving to this region, I scoped out the lay of the land and discovered a couple of organizations, including The Gays of Sullivan County (dot com), the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of the Catskills (www.galacatskills.org) and a handful of groups scattered about on both sides of the river, which gave me confidence that there were others like me (well, that’s debatable) to be found in and around what was about to be my new home. While it may have lain dormant in the back of my mind, I was never truly concerned about how my being gay would affect the welcome mat here in the area and any doubts I might have had never materialized. If there are those who consider me odd, off-beat or even just plain weird, it has nothing to do with my sexual orientation and for that, I thank you.

Last Friday night, the celebration began and I jetted over to the Catskill Distilling Company to join others out and proud, dancing the night away prior to the festivities held the next day in Callicoon Center at a “Day To Be Gay”(DTBG) festival at Hills Country Inn (www.hillsinn.com) co sponsored by Gala Catskills and DTBG Foundation. The day involved booths, vendors, entertainment and food, and folks from all walks of life strolled the grounds, entered the pie-eating contest, bought handcrafted artwork and encouraged their dogs to take part in the pageant that awarded prizes to the cutest, or the one that most closely resembled their human counterpart.

That same night, The Indigo Girls and Joan Baez hit the stage at Bethel Woods (www.bethelwoodscenter.org). Was it coincidence that these women have spent decades championing equal rights and served as a voice for the downtrodden? Between them, these entertainers have spoken out supporting civil rights, human rights, nonviolent demonstration, saving the environment and lending their names to scores of causes, including gay rights. While the Indigo Girls have identified as gay for more than 25 years, that “label” has clearly not affected their standing in the world of music, where they have sold millions of gold and platinum albums. As for Baez, while not a lesbian, her support for the community is legendary and she is in a class by herself as an icon, an activist and a living legend. As thousands gathered to hear the women play and sing, the “G” word wasn’t heard as I wandered the grounds and (IMHO) it’s because it’s (albeit slowly) become a non-issue. Out. Loud. Proud. I’m wowed.