LGBTQ community celebrates Pride Month in the Berkshires in style

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PITTSFIELD — When Oskar Hallig started an annual dance party and cabaret in June of 2016 to celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month in the Berkshires, he wasn't sure what he was doing.

"It was sort of taking best guesses," the Only in My Dreams Events LLC president said by phone last week.

The Colonial Theatre's Garage served as a piano bar and drag show area for the event. Dancing was on The Colonial's stage.

"They felt that was all a bit disjointed," Hallig recalled being told by partygoers.

In 2017, he mixed the drag performances in with the dancing onstage.

According to Hallig, ticketholders said "that broke up the dance party a lot."

This year, Hallig is trying to find a happy medium. Saturday night, The Garage will once again host a piano bar, and dancing onstage will dominate for the latter part of the evening. New in 2018, however, is the first-ever Mr./Miss Berkshire Drag Pageant, running from 7-9 p.m. Brita Filter, who appears on FusionTV's "Shade: Queens of NYC," will host. Berkshires drag linchpins Miss Nancy Nogood and Boxxa Vine were vital to organizing the event.

"In the past, they've performed, but this year they've taken on a more official role," Hallig said.

Contestants will compete for a prize package worth approximately $3,000. Drag queen Gemini DaBarbay and State Sen. Adam Hinds will be among the judges. Afterwards, judges, participants and spectators are all welcome to walk the Pink Carpet before breaking it down onstage from 9 to midnight. DJ BFG will be spinning while visual artist Joe Wheaton works the lights and projections. In addition to artistic images, Wheaton will show photos from dance parties past.

"'Oh, look, there's me last year,'" Hallig said people might say.

Attendance for the first two editions was strong. Hallig says about 200 people bought tickets the first year. He estimated that 2017 saw a 30-40 percent increase in ticket sales. Having "annual" in the event's name has been a motivational tool.

"If you do that, you force yourself to sort of make it," said Hallig, who started planning this year's event a day after last year's.

Hallig works in wedding planning, so he's extremely detail-oriented.

"I'm a little neurotic. Actually, I'm a lot neurotic," he said.

One area he'd like to improve is the event's food situation. There aren't any meals or snacks served, but that doesn't necessarily mean there won't be any treats.

"I can't help myself," Hallig said. "I'm like, 'If you're going to give people something to drink, they should be able to have something to eat.'"

Last year, he brought crackers and Skittles.

"I can't tell you how many people were like, 'Oh my God, those Skittles were amazing!'"

For an event planner, it was somewhat disheartening.

"I could spend all my life and all my money on planning something and then put a bowl of Skittles out," Hallig said, "and the Skittles will win."

Overall, however, the annual dance party and cabaret has Hallig feeling optimistic about the state of Pride in the Berkshires. Coupled with the Berkshire Pride Festival, the event represents the progress the county has made in this arena since Hallig returned to the Berkshires following stints in Berlin and New York City.

"There was nothing," Hallig said. "And now, in the last three years, here we are celebrating the second annual Pride. There's all kinds of drag shows. I know there's a gay hiking group. ... It would be nice to come here now."

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.




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