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The recent inclement weather has no doubt left many New Yorkers dreaming ahead to warm summer days idling about Fire Island. We say indulge those urges with a screening of Coming of Age in Cherry Grove: The Invasion, a visual love letter to the resort town from director (and seasonal resident) James Belzer.
With a runtime of 80 minutes, Coming of Age in Cherry Grove: The Invasion traces the town’s roots as a gay escape in the 1940s to becoming an enclave for drag and other, unconventional personalities with interviews of notable residents like Robyn Byrd, Joan Van Ness, Panzi, Porsche, Robin Kradles, Sal Piro, The Cherry Grove Guys, among others.
“[Visitors] seem to feel a true sense of freedom when they get to Cherry Grove,” continued Belzer. “To literally let their hair down, or, to put it up, or to put on a wig for that matter.”
Considered the country’s first and oldest LGBT community, Cherry Grove, NY has long been a safe haven for visitors and residents to openly explore their sexuality or gender identity. In fact, it is this openness that sparked what is now Fire Island’s biggest summer event, “The Invasion of the Pines.”
Tracing back to an incident in 1976, “The Invasion” began when Grove resident Terry Warren, dressed in drag, was refused service in the then-conservative neighboring community of the Pines. On the Fourth of July that same year, Warren’s friends donned drag in solidarity and sailed en masse by ferry to “raid” the Pines. This time, however, they were received with jubilance and the event has been reenacted every year since.
And, for those who have never visited the Grove - fear not - there is a place at the table for you too.
“People quickly lose their inhibitions in Cherry Grove and often, all of their clothes,” remarked Belzer. “Or, they go the other route and decide to try drag for the first time. This spirit of acceptance leads to some interesting choices for first time visitors.”
Coming of Age in Cherry Grove: The Invasion is available for purchase or rental on iTunes. View the trailer here: