After a two-year break, the New Haven Pride Center brought LGBTQ pride events back to the city in a lively four-day celebration.

The weekend began with a kickoff at City Hall on Thursday evening and was followed by a Friday open house at the Center. The keystone event of the weekend was a Saturday evening block party and the festival wrapped up with a brunch at Lucky Chao’s on Sunday afternoon.

This was a year of firsts for New Haven Pride. The City Hall kickoff marked the first time the center has made the city an official part of the event. Pride also boasted its longest-ever celebration — this year’s event was four days long, whereas last year’s lasted only a day — and its largest-ever crew of 50 volunteers this year.

“It was a big step for us,” said Pride performer and New Haven resident Sylvia Heart. “[Pride] has been big, but it’s never been grand.” Heart was a drag performance at the Empire Nightclub’s after-party on Saturday night.

New Haven resident and fellow performer Luis Antonio was pleased to see the event expanded to four days this year.

For Antonio, the size of the audience at the City Hall kickoff on Thursday and his drag performance were the high points of Pride.

Pride Center Co-President Joshua O’Connell said that the drag performances showcased the talent of some of Connecticut’s best performers, adding that they have an important role in the community. “What many don’t know is that many of the drag performers are also some of the community’s most outspoken advocates and dedicated fundraisers,” O’Connell said. “They use entertainment to build the community and support its growth and evolution.

O’Connell added that two personal highlights were Mayor Toni Harp’s dedication of Sept. 18 as Gay Pride Day in New Haven and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman’s attendance on Saturday.

Javier Davila MED ’96, who attended the event, also lauded the city’s involvement with Pride. He said the weekend “exceeded expectations” and was happy to see the bigger turnout this year.

Davila added that Pride seemed more cohesive and widely attended than previous years due to the city’s active support. He also noted the importance of Friday’s open house for the New Haven Pride Center, which he said provided the community with a good introduction to the resources the center offers.

North Haven resident Bill Beavis said he was impressed by the attendance at the Saturday street festival and attributed it largely to participation from a number of organizations including Planned Parenthood.

Pride’s “Now You See Me” photo exhibit, featuring photographs exploring queer identities, will be on display at the New Haven Pride Center for the next few weeks.