WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Watertown Pride weekend was held from June 17 through June 19, and hundreds of members from the area gathered to show their support of the LGBTQIA+ community.

The weekend started off with a kickoff party which was held at the Paddock Club located in downtown Watertown and Drag Shows at Savory Downtown on Friday night. At 9 a.m. on Saturday morning residents were able to attend the flag-raising ceremony in front of Watertown City Hall to continue to show their support.

The ceremony had speakers from the community share their message with the crowd that had gathered. Speakers included a representative from Governor Kathy Hochul’s Office, former New York State Assemblywoman Dierdre Scozzafava, and Executive Director at ARC Health Lisa Alford.

Scozzafava represented District 122 in the New York State Assembly from 1999 to 2010 and was the keynote speaker at the ceremony on Saturday morning. She explained to the crowd the reactions she received when she voiced her support for marriage equality when it became a discussion in the NYS Assembly, and how she stayed true to her beliefs despite what others had to say.

“Someone that came up to me and said, you’re from the North Country, you cannot vote for this,” Scozzafava said. “And I responded, I’m from the North Country and that’s why I will vote for this.”

The crowd in front of city hall responded in applause when Scozzafava told the story during her speech. She said she continued to advocate for marriage equality for the years to come and that she was proud she was able to do what she could to support the LGBTQIA+ community.

“My votes were the right votes to take and, I’m just excited to see that I could make but a small difference in the lives of a lot of people,” Scozzafava said.

The day continued with more activities as part of Watertown Pride Weekend. The Color Run began at noon at Thompson Park’s Honor the Mountain Monument, which also featured the weekend’s Out in the Park event which took place until 3 p.m.

Those who attended were able to dance to the DJ’s music, get their face painted, play games, go in the beer tent, and receive food from various vendors and food trucks. Zackery McPeak was just one of the many who participated in the Color Run on Saturday afternoon. He explained that he moved to the area from Virginia and was pleasantly surprised by the welcoming mindset of those from the North Country.

“Coming here and seeing how welcoming they are just really like gave me good hopes about being in Upstate New York,” McPeak said. “It’s a good feeling.”

Also scheduled for the weekend were Drag Races at different restaurants throughout Watertown, and Fireworks at the Alex T. Duffy Fairground on Saturday night. The weekend will end with a Tea Dance at Garland City from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Sunday.

The proceeds from the weekend’s events will be used to support ACR Health which provides STD testing, health insurance, counseling, and more. Lisa Alford is the Executive Director of the organization and said the money fundraised will help establish the first youth and family education center, also known as the Q center, in the community.

“It provides a safe space for young LGBTQ+ youth and their families to just come hang out,” Alford said. “You know, be themselves, be authentic. For them to learn and gain additional skills, for their family members to learn and figure out how they navigate their lives.”

Alfred said it was inspiring to see the Watertown community show their support during the city’s pride weekend.

“You all have had such a great turnout today. It is really very encouraging for the community to do that,” Alford said. “It lets other people know that may not be comfortable living their authentic lives, that there are other people like them, and that they’re here to support them, on their journey as well.”

The Q center will also provide training for school districts and other organizations and is expected to officially open within the next couple of weeks. More information can be found on the ACR Health Website.