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Hunterdon Life

Parade people of Lambertville

One town, two parades, and those who march for love and honor


May is when the fallen are remembered, freedom is celebrated and pride is on display.

Two parades take place on Lambertville’s North Union Street this month, in recognition of seemingly disparate but ultimately unified groups. The people involved honor their respective communities, proudly marching past historic homes and grateful onlookers, waving flags.


As it has annually since 2007, on May 18, the New Hope Celebrates Pride Parade began at Lambertville’s City Hall. It’s where New Jersey’s first same-sex marriages were officiated in 2013.

Melissa Patterson, president of New Hope Celebrates since 2022, has lived in Lambertville for seven years, though she and her wife Karen visited for several years prior.

“We wanted to be part of the community,” she said. “Lambertville is a safe space. There is a large LGBTQ community and allies, which are so needed.”

Its adjacency to New Hope was an added bonus.

As president of NHC, one of Patterson’s many responsibilities is organizing the Pride Parade.

There are more than 1,500 participants, including local businesses and organizations, churches and marching bands.

“We are the only Pride Parade that crosses state lines,” Patterson added, noting that the current rehabilitation of the New Hope Lambertville Toll Supported Bridge was not an obstacle.

“One of my favorite parts is leaving my house and seeing the town decorated in rainbow flags. During the parade, when you get to the corner of Bridge and Main streets, seeing all those people, cheering you on,” Patterson said, as a subtle beam crossed her face.

“I can’t speak for all, but for queer people, there was always a feeling of being less-than,” she added, emphasizing how the joy and acceptance of the parade and the Pride events lift up the LGBTQ community.

Local royalty begins the procession, as newly crowned Miss and Mister New Hope Celebrates, Diva Divine Monroe and Sir Harold Angels, respectively, take the lead.

A staple in the NHC Pride Parade and the New Hope Community, Miss Pumpkin will bring up the rear of the parade in a float inspired by the Rose Bowl Parade.

People of Pride: Diva Divine

Quinten Darling, (Diva Divine Monroe) tall, broad-shouldered and sweet-faced with wide-eyed sincerity, could block out the light if it were not shining from him.

Tucked into a booth on a quiet afternoon at John & Peter’s in New Hope, he spoke of his performance journey, and the communities and drag families that support him.

“I followed RuPaul in high school, went to his affiliated tours,” he said. “Once I turned 21 I started going to clubs.”

Diva Divine was a permanent audience member at Havana’s Lipstick Mondays for most of 2021, engaging with the performers, passing the tip jar, informing his drag persona.

Diva Divine, a name that took a few tries, is a loving member of the Haus of Monroe, a California-centered house of pageant queens.

“It’s a close-knit, found family,” he said, describing both drag families in general and the Haus of Monroe.

“Your drag mother dresses you, she supports you,” he said. “I always looked up to Asia (Monroe), she was always so put together. The way she spoke, performed, it was at such a professional level. You have to be well spoken, you are representing New Hope Celebrates at every event.”

Darling had been performing in drag since 2021. By the end of 2023, he was ready to go for the NHC title. With three months of preparation, plus the support of her drag family, Diva Divine entered the NHC contest in March.

“It was always an aspiration of mine to compete in the Miss New Hope pageant,” Diva said.

All of the dance rehearsals, Q-and-A run-throughs, vocal training and costume detailing paid off, as Diva Divine honored the Haus of Monroe by bringing home the crown.

Though Diva Divine has participated in previous parades, the 2024 Pride Parade will be the first time as a representative of New Hope Celebrates. No small accomplishment for any entertainer.

People of Pride: Sir Harold Angels

Leigh Morrison (Sir Harold Angels) moved to Lambertville from Colorado in 2023.

“I originally got involved in the drag scene when I was living in Denver in 2018,” she said. “For a year, I attended a weekly drag king show hosted by Manifest, a troupe of drag kings intentionally creating a space to bring new performers onto the scene through mentorship. Eventually, they convinced me to give performing a try, and I finally hit the January of 2020.”

Like the rest of the world, Morrison was having a great time, until March brought forth the wrath of COVID.

“Even as the world shut down and I moved states twice, I knew I would find my way back to the stage,” said Morrison. “I experienced a lot of grief during that time, and last year, I went through a sudden health issue that really impacted my mobility. As I worked to recover, I felt like I was crawling out of this low point, becoming more curious about what I could learn and create.”

Challenging herself, acknowledging her fear but moving past it and winning the pageant, gave Morrison a feeling of affirmation, that she was where she was supposed to be.

Being in the parade is not only a celebration of her winning title, but the representation of community.

“For me, it’s about joy, and that means everything. In the midst of pressures that would have queer people silenced and erased, Pride is showing up to tell our stories, to honor history paved by queer and trans elders, and to celebrate our humanity,” Morrison said. “I have this idea that if someone who believes queer people pose a threat were to see me in my platform sandals dancing with my puppets, it might hit them that we really are just here trying to live our lives and hopefully have some fun, like anyone.”


Though the Pride Parade is a town tradition in May, the Memorial Day Parade is a revered concours that honors those whose sacrifice gave rise to these dearly held civic freedoms.

Organized by the Lambertville American Legion Post 120, Georg Hambach coordinates — and marches with — the military participants. City Clerk Cindy Ege also coordinates the event, sending out letters of invitation and working with entrants.

Proud Patriots: Georg Hambach

A 40-year Lambertville resident, Hambach is the VFW Post 7921 Commander.

Originally from Ohio, he left college and joined the Air Force in 1967. In January of 1970, he began his service as a medic in Vietnam. Hambach’s tour ended 10 months later, when his mother was in a serious accident state-side and he was permitted to return. Despite leaving early, Hambach’s war experience stayed with him, motivating him to action and anti-war protests at Ohio State.

“I got my student I.D, and was (tear) gassed by the National Guard,” he reflected.

Hambach obtained his degree and worked in the healthcare field. At the age of 40, adventure beckoned, and he joined the Army Reserves, then transferred to the Air Force at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Burlington County N.J.

“We airlifted (wounded) to Europe and back to the U.S.,” he explained.

For the past 20 years Hambach has been the coordinator of a “parade that always organized itself,” as he describes it.

The “titles” run the show: American Legion Post 120 Commander Bob Miller, Hambach, Commander of the VFW, with special recognition to John Baker, New Jersey American Legion State Adjutant Administrator.

Brothers Bill (USMC) and John (USN) “Shavy” Shurts, both veterans, are the co-grand marshalls for 2024.

All participants form a true slice of Americana, with South Hunterdon High School Marching Band, local fire and ambulance squads, and area Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts involved.

Proud Patriots: Kevin Brady

Kevin Brady began his time with the local Scouts like most parents, helping out with his son’s troop. That was back in 2000. Also as often happens, he was asked to take on the role of den leader, moving up the ranks to Committee Chair, and ultimately district level Unit Commissioner.

“I’m associated primarily with Troop 49 of Scouts of America. We are based in Lambertville, but we have scouts from Solebury, New Hope, West Amwell, East Amwell and Delaware Township as well,” he said.

Brady has remained active through the years, motivated by the positive effect it had on his son, Wyatt, who also rose through the ranks to Eagle Scout status.

“It helped him earn full scholarships from the Army at Ohio University, then Rutgers, which launched him on his dream career in aviation,” said Brady.

Beyond the values it instills in youths and the friendships he forged with the parents involved, Brady values the Scouts’ participation in the Memorial Day Parade.

“Our presence in the parade is important to show the troop’s commitment, from the adults as well as the Scouts, to service to the Lambertville community,” he said. “Personally, I love to wave to all of our local friends gathered at one time on parade day.”

Proud Patriots: Adam Hackel

Dr. Adam Hackel, Ed.D., is the Adjutant/Public Affairs Officer for the VFW Post 7921. He has been affiliated with the organization since 2007, the last two years with Lambertville.

Hackel’s father was a WWII combat veteran in the battle of Iwo Jima, and his brother-in-law is a Vietnam combat veteran.

Hackel is a retired Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel, having served in Iraq and at the Pentagon.

The military has always been a part of his life, from family to military secondary education to time served in the Reserves and active duty.

Music is in his blood, too, having received his bachelor’s in conducting from Tulane University, as well as his master’s and doctorate in education, the latter from Rowan University. He currently teaches music at Montgomery Middle School in Somerset County.

Hackel is the recipient of many awards, honors and certifications in both the military and music education.

Successfully navigating dual careers takes talent, intellect and upbringing. During most of Hackel’s military career, he also navigated the problematic policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

His sense of honor, instilled from his background and education, was in conflict regarding this policy, though he remained clear-eyed and focused on the future. As a gay man in the military, he served his country, believing that at some point in time things would change.

“I always felt someday, I will be in a position to stretch my hand forward and say ‘No, this is unacceptable, as a human and as a military standard,’” he said.

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed in 2011, though not as quickly as he would have liked.

Soon after, he and his then-boyfriend William were married. They reside with their 13-year-old daughter in Doylestown.

As for his involvement in the VFW, Hackel looked for a post that was the right fit, and quickly found it in Lambertville’s #7921.

“Georg (Hambach) is the kind of leader I sought when I was in military service because he genuinely cares about people and their welfare. I found that with so many of the members,” Hackel reflected.

His husband Bill participated at the NHC Pride Parade earlier this month. On Memorial Day this year Hackel will be attending his daughter’s school parade and not in Lambertville. When he is involved, it is a reflection of not just his service but of those who came before him.

“Memorial Day is specifically for veterans who have passed, most times in combat,” he said. “I consider myself so amazingly fortunate that my dad came home, and to get to know how cool he was. Then I think of myself fortunate, as a veteran, I was able to get home and raise my daughter. I think about the countless sons and daughters or a child who is no longer here. It is exceptionally important to me to be thankful. As a human race, we need at the very least to be aware that there are people who said they will put their life on the line to protect this nation. It is important to take a moment to recognize this. Someone said your freedom, your life, is worth dying for.”

Hackel hopes to reach out to LGBTQ veterans.

“Queer vets don’t always feel like they are welcome, and I want to say our post is extremely welcoming,” he said. “I encourage people to check it out, it is a good place for everybody.”

Veterans interested in the VFW Post 7921 may send an email to

The Lambertville Memorial Day Parade starts at 9 a.m. on North Union Street at Cherry Street and ends at Mary Sheridan Park on York Street. The public is invited to a picnic at the Legion after the parade and ceremony.


Andrew Nowick is the mayor of Lambertville, and an active participant in both the Pride and Memorial Day parades. He shared his thoughts via email on these local traditions.

“Every spring, our community lines the city streets for two parades — parades that may seem unconnected on the surface, but that are, in fact, deeply linked through the commitment of individuals sharing a common society.

As the Mayor of Lambertville, I walk in the Memorial Day Parade and, as I do, I reflect on the service of veterans in the pursuit of a better society, one in which freedoms and rights continue to develop and expand. In a letter to Samuel Kercheval on July 12, 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

‘I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as a civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.’

“As a young man I was prohibited from joining the armed services because I am gay. But what held true for Jefferson’s time holds true for ours. As I march in the Memorial Day Parade, I think about the arc of my own life — its expanded rights and liberties, and I recognize that through their service, our veterans have been integral to the expansion of my rights, and my happiness. We have only to ask ourselves whether a gay married father of three children could have marched in Lambertville’s Memorial Day Parade in days past to know the truth of this. It is a humbling honor to consider the sacrifice of those who contributed to the success of my life while simultaneously representing our community’s gratitude as its Mayor.

The Pride Parade is the joyous celebration of the evolution of our society. Gay men can now serve in the military. I serve as a Mayor who happens to be gay. People have new rights and we are glad. The ill-fitting coat of intolerance or bigotry or misunderstanding may now be cast off in favor of a dress, or a boa, or a rainbow wig. Taken together, these two parades are a powerful opportunity to acknowledge that veterans have given much for a growing freedom that can be expressed solemnly, gratefully, and joyfully.”

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