Daniel Brooks, founder and executive director of New Hope Celebrates, said he and the other festival organizers try to distinguish themselves from other Pride celebrations and at the same time appeal to a wide range of people.
“I think at this point, it’s the eighth year, so the most challenging thing is to make it fresh,” he said. “A lot of times you get into a format with these things and it’s easy to go with that. But what we try to do consistently every year is to do something different and shake it up, make it more interesting and broader. The thing that’s made New Hope Celebrates different from other Pride festivals is that it’s longer, almost a week long, and it’s very inclusive. We really planned activities for every segment of the populace. In New Hope, those activities are not only attended by LGBT folk but the straight populace as well. We run it but everybody comes to it. Other gay Pride festivals I go to are pretty exclusive and there’s something to be said for that also. But it’s typical of the area to be inclusive.”
In the spirit of keeping things fresh, Brooks said the festival has some new events this year.
“We decided to institute the Friday night fireworks,” he said. “They usually don’t start until after Memorial Day. I requested that. The first fireworks of the season were moved up earlier to spark the beginning of the Pride weekend. So we’ll have fireworks this weekend for the first time.”
He added that another new activity, “Clue into New Hope,” will give guests an incentive to explore the town.
“Basically, it’s an all-over-town scavenger hunt where guests can earn points by visiting various attractions and retailers that are participating,” Brooks said. “And after gathering an amount of points, they get a prize at the end. It really encourages people to get around town in a wide range of activities or stores rather than just clumping themselves in one area, which Pride events are notorious for.”
Once the parades and other daytime activities are done, visitors will have a number of entertainment possibilities to keep them occupied well into the night.
“America’s Got Talent” finalists and dance troupe DC Cowboys will be on hand for the Pride Parade and performing May 14 at the Lambertville Inn in Lambertville, N.J., and May 15 at The Raven.
Singer and DC Cowboys member Jonathan Bascope said the group enjoys the opportunity to perform in New Hope.
“We’ve been there the past two years,” he said. “We’ve done the Pride Parade and performed at the Nevermore and The Raven. I think we’ll be doing something similar this year. We’ll also do a meet-and-greet session at one of the stores in the area. Then I’ll be doing a performance for my music.”
Between his work as a florist in the Washington, D.C., area and his tours of duty with the DC Cowboys, Bascope is also launching his own solo music project. He recently released his first recording, featuring his new single “Live My Life.”
“We just did remixes and put it up on iTunes,” he said. “It’s my first promotional album and a way for me to get my name out there. More stuff will be coming up along the way.”
Upon listening to his debut CD, it become apparent that Bascope is flying the flag of some pop and dance influences.
“I’ve always loved Michael Jackson, Elton John and Madonna,” he said. “Those are my top three favorites. Lady Gaga is also incredible right now. She’s fun to listen to. I grew up in the late 1980s and early ’90s, so a lot of that music is still imbedded in my head. I just love it when I hear a Journey song or any other ’80s rock band.”
Bascope said his work with the DC Cowboys opens doors for his solo work.
“They actually work pretty well together,” Bascope said of his two gigs as a performer. “We have a lot of performances where we need singing and dancing. So I’m able to do the singing part with them.”
He added that the Cowboys’ exposure on “America’s Got Talent” has won them an international following.
“Because of it, we got a lot of awesome gigs,” he said. “I joined the year after [the group’s appearance on the show]. But that year, we traveled to Budapest, Ireland, across the U.S. and Canada as well, because people saw us on the show. It definitely helped the group out a lot.”
Other renowned entertainers coming to New Hope for the festivities include outrageous singer and comedian Miss Richfield 1981, who will march in the Pride Parade and perform her one-woman show, “30 Years on the Throne,” May 15 at the Raven, direct from sold-out engagements in Atlanta, New York and Chicago.
Of course the main attraction for Pride week in New Hope is the parade, starting noon May 14, and also featuring the DC Cowboys and The Big Apple LGBT Marching Corps, Mummers and New Hope-Solebury High School band, among other performers.
A block party follows the parade from 1:30-5 p.m. on West Mechanic Street, featuring performances by New York City pop singer-songwriter Kylie Edmond, jazz singer-guitarist Laura Cheadle, local singer and dance artist Chad D, and singer Christine Martucci, who will perform with her full band.
New Hope will also host some riotous laughter during its Pride celebration. Bob Egan’s New Hope at the Ramada hosts the one-two punch of singer Sharon McKnight and her show “Songs to Offend Almost Everyone” May 14 at 8:30 p.m., followed by comedian Judy Gold at 10:30 p.m. The next day, comedian Poppy Champlin, best known as a comedy fixture in Provincetown and Key West, will perform for guests of Ladies 2000, at 3 p.m. May 15 at Havana, 105 S. Main St.
Champlin, who will be making her New Hope debut, will be fresh off a weeklong engagement on a cruise ship. But given her busy schedule, she said, she’s used to drastic changes in venues from one day to the next.
“I wouldn’t say that there are any ‘normal’ gigs,” she said, comparing her upcoming New Hope performance to her other performances. “They’re all pretty different. I do a lot of different things all the time. I do HRC events. So the New Hope will probably be like that.”
Except the New Hope show will be in a bar and during the day.
“So there’s a couple of factors that will be different. I’m used to working in a bar. I’m not used to working during the day, but usually bars are dark so it won’t be that much of a factor. I don’t think there will be a big difference. Comedy is universal and goes over in all venues and times. It’s all the same.”
If you happen to miss Champlin’s performance in New Hope, you can probably catch her if you head to Provincetown, where she will be performing all summer.
“I’m writing that show right now,” she said of her upcoming P-town residency. “It’s called ‘From Top to Bottom.’ That’s going to be a new show for me with new songs that I’m writing and putting into the set.”
If you’d rather spend your evening in New Hope listening to music rather than jokes and laughter, there are plenty other options. Local singer-songwriter Christine Havrilla will perform at Triumph Brewing Company (400 Union Square Drive) as part of “Girls Night OUT” 9:30 p.m. May 13. The Raven’s Piano Bar in the Oak Room (385 W. Bridge St.) hosts a performance 9 p.m.-1 a.m. by singer-pianist Michael Ferrari on May 13 and cabaret singer Russell Effert on May 14. Also don’t miss “Diva Bingo,” featuring the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus singing tunes from “Dreamgirls,” from 6-9 p.m. May 11 at Eagle Fire Hall, 46 N. Sugan Road.
For more information about New Hope Celebrates and its Pride Week festivities, visit www.newhopecelebrates.com.