Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

City honors five for Pride month 

Pride Month honorees holding their proclamations from left, David Carpenter, Leslie Masson, Cynthia Knox, Sepp Spenlinhauer, Justin Wingenroth with Peekskill Common Council members. IPhoto by Jim Striebich)

Peekskill is a city where members of the LGBTQ+ community don’t have to fear for their lives when they frequent restaurants or go grocery shopping. It’s a place where they can live authentically and give back to their community, said one of the five individuals honored before Monday’s Common Council meeting for the celebration of Pride Month.  

“I had a phone conversation with my sister before coming here and I told her I was getting an award. She asked ‘what for’ and I told her ‘for being gay’,” said Honoree Sepp Spenlinhauer. He then went on to explain how he’s appreciative of Peekskill’s inclusive and welcoming atmosphere. 

In addition to Spenlinhauer, the city recognized David Carpenter, Cynthia Knox, Leslie Masson, and Justin Wingenroth. 

All the proclamations read by Mayor McKenzie to the five honoree’s included the following language: Pride Month is a joyful display of love, unity and resilience which promotes inclusivity, educates the public, and celebrates the diversity of sexual orientations and gender identities. As we celebrate Pride Month, may we reflect on the powerful reminder of the importance of acceptance, diversity and love. 

Honoree David Carpenter was recognized as a partner at Curious Hedgehog, LLC and the Founder and CEO of Gamiotics Inc.,which is introducing gamification to the live entertainment experience. Gamification is the strategic attempt to enhance systems, services, organizations and activities by creating similar experiences to those experienced with playing games in order to motivate and engage users.

David Carpenter listens as Mayor McKenzie reads his proclamation.

Gamiotics includes features that expand connectivity and focuses the audience on the experience. David has a successful career in the production industry and is a Tony-nominated Broadway producer, the lead producer of the Broadway run of “Slava’s Snowshow” and the Off-Broadway hit comedy, “Puffs”. Recently, he brought “The Twenty-Sided Tavern” to the New York stage. He is married to Jacob Thompson. 

Honoree Cynthia Knox was acknowledged for her professional acumen as CEO of Caring for the Hungry and Homeless of Peekskill (CHOPP). She also established Rehousing in Supportive Environments (RISE), a collaborative effort supporting domestic violence survivors as she firmly believes in offering more than just a bag of food. Cynthia has received numerous accolades and awards.

Mayor McKenzie reads the proclamation to Cynthia Knox.

She received the Westchester Women in Business Leaders, the Hudson Valley Chamber of Commerce Quality of Life Award, the Peekskill NAACP Distinguished Service Award and most recently was named a 2024 LGBTG+ Trailblazer by Loft’s OUTspoken Magazine. She actively serves the community on the Board of the Hudson Valley Gateway of Commerce, the Board of Directors of Nonprofit Westchester and the New York Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital Community Advisory Board. She is married to Carla Rae Johnson. 

Honoree Leslie Masson was celebrated and acknowledged as a proud octogenarian and long-time resident of Peekskill. She is the wife of Marybeth McGowan. Leslie is the Co-Founder of American Dream Promotions, Inc., which offers a unique expertise to event promoters not affiliated with an established venue.

Leslie Masson hears Mayor McKenzie reading the proclamation.

Over the years, American Dream Promotions, Inc. worked with tennis tournaments, cat shows, balloon festivals and U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball teams. One especially exciting venture included working for Madison Square Garden for the first Billy Joel concert. One of the greatest joys of American Dream Productions, Inc. was acquiring Stella, a retired trolley, from a transit company. Stella provided many memorable moments for residents and visitors of Peekskill by taking them on history tours of the city for 11 years.  

Honoree Sepp Spenlinhauer was acknowledged as the Co-Founder and Co-Owner of Vivid RGB Lighting, which was founded in 2011 with Brian Fassett, Sepp’s husband. Vivid RGB Lighting is a color-changing, pixel-based LED lighting company which specializes in innovations for everything from holiday light shows to parties galore.

Sepp Spenlinhauer listens as Mayor McKenzie reads the proclamation.

Some of the projects include “Boop! The Musical – Broadway in Chicago, School of Glow in SeaWorld San Diego, Macy’s Parade Universal Orlando, and the Westchester Winter Wonderland Holiday Light Extravaganza to name a few. Sepp most often works behind the scenes in the layout, décor, sound and, of course, lighting with professionalism. He is eager to help bring success to many events. 

Honoree Justin Wingenroth was acknowledged for being a dedicated and visionary leader in both the arts and business communities. He is the Owner and Director of the Dance Conservatory, which supports, trains and influences the next generation. He encourages the students to use their creativity and passion for dance.

Justin Wingenroth listens as Mayor McKenzie reads his proclamation.

His commitment to excellence has produced numerous successful performances and a reputation for producing top-notched dancers in our community. He has worked with the Peekskill High School as well as other neighboring high schools. Justin is also a teaching artist with Arts10566. He collaborated with them to establish Gateway Arts Collective, which is a program designed to foster collaborations across disciplines and communities to bring quality performances to Peekskill. He is married to Ben Lukens. 





About the Contributor
Regina Clarkin
Regina Clarkin, Editor and Publisher
When the Peekskill Herald weekly newspaper ceased publishing in August 2000 it was the first time in the history of the city that there wasn’t a local newspaper.  The award-winning weekly was often referred to as the ‘glue’ of the community. Founded on January 9, 1986 by Regina Clarkin, Kathy Daley and Rich Zahradnik with a $7,000 credit card line, the paper filled the void created when the daily Evening Star was sold to Gannett and moved out of town. Founding publisher Regina Clarkin continued to live in the Peekskill Cortlandt area and turned her attention to other life endeavors.  Through the ensuing 19 years, Clarkin was frequently stopped in town and asked when she would start up the Herald again. In January 2019, Clarkin decided it was less labor intensive to deliver a weekly blog than a print newspaper so she began posting one story a week about life in Peekskill. After a successful crowd funding campaign in 2020, the Herald was incorporated as a non-profit corporation in July of 2021. Peekskill Herald is a digital relative of the former print edition, featuring many of the favorite aspects of the beloved Peekskill Herald such as old pictures, personality profiles and well written stories about newsworthy events. Regina Clarkin is the editor and publisher of the site. Photo by Joe Squillante