Unlikely duo celebrates second year of creating Pride parade in this Long Island town

BABYLON VILLAGE, New York -- Each June, the LGBTQ+ community and its allies traditionally flood the streets of New York for Pride events, culminating in the NYC Pride March.

Roman, a resident of Babylon Village, wanted to bring a similar embrace of Pride to this Long Island community.

"People should feel accepted and appreciated in their own backyard," Roman said. "We don't have to run away to the city or to Fire Island to be accepted. We can be who we are in our own backyards."

This thought turned into a brainstorming session with Roman's good friend, Bob McKeown.

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McKeown met Roman a few years back at a restaurant he and his wife would frequent. Throughout the years, a close friendship developed between Roman and McKeown.

The two eventually discussed creating the village of Babylon's first-ever Pride parade after collaborating earlier on the Babylon Village Pub Crawl.

"The pandemic came along, and we were like, let's do it," McKeown.

With help from friends and family, McKeown and Roman put together a makeshift car parade in only seven days.

"It was thrown together on a wing and a prayer," said James Nicholas, who participated last year and was happy to be back for the second annual Babylon Village Pride Parade. "We didn't think it was going to be well received, but we were so shocked that the community was ... so open arms with it."

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After last year's success, the duo approached current Babylon Mayor Mary Adams, proposing a five-year plan to continue the parade.

Adams wanted the next parade to be even bigger and better, and that's exactly what happened on Sunday, June 6.

"Everyone here is very close-knit. They're very open, accepting like the community is very nice. I do think it will transfer to other towns on Long Island," said Tony Palmer, who arrived early to decorate his car with pride flags.

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This year, the parade had 50 cars decked out in their finest Pride decor; streets were closed for safety; and the crowds in Babylon Village flooded the streets, chanting encouraging words as the cars went by.

"We do come from two separate worlds, but this is a pure definition of you can cast your differences aside," Roman said. "No matter how you were raised you come together for the greater good and the greater good for the LGBTQ community. Showing this and having this parade shows that you're safe here. Babylon Village accepts you, and we love you!"

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