It’s June, the month where gay pride festivals pop up in cities and towns all over the United States. Why June? Well, on June 28th, 1969 the Stonewall Riots occurred in New York City. This was the impetus of the gay rights movement in the US and thus June has become the month we celebrate our diversity and culture. This year, I decided to travel to DC and join the party there. Washington DC is not new to me. I have made made annual visits four times now, but one item I have not attended is Capital Pride. So, this was the year I took a gay-cation to my nation’s capital city.
Over the past visits I have made a number of great friends in the area. This means I have no need to fret about hotels or finding my way around. I’m not ignorant of public transportation in DC, but one can focus more on the sights and sounds when not having to constantly orient yourself to the nearest bus or metro stop. Let’s just say that this blog entry will be more about pride than the logistics of travel in and around DC.
Like most gay pride events, Capital Pride is a week-long affair that starts on a Monday and slowly builds to a climax on Sunday evening (pun intended). I did not arrive until Friday, but I was able to participate in the main events on Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday was parade day and my friends and I staked out a shady spot along the route about 30 minutes prior to the start time. It was a sticky hot and humid day, but everyone was in good spirits. The streets were closed off by the police and so began a mile long swath of colorful floats, marching bands, dancers, and more glitter than a RuPaul gown all weaved through the famously gay Dupont neighborhood. It seemed that almost everyone was represented. Participants ranged from the British Embassy, The Peace Corps, many of the local inclusive churches, gay friendly businesses, most of the local clubs and bars, and gay social clubs. However, one of the highlights for myself was the Grand Marshal Lynda Carter.
Yes, Wonder Woman had us all in a big gay tizzy! We couldn’t get that theme song out of our heads all day. She looked fantastic flanked by women in Wonder Woman costumes as she rode past us in a pink Ford Thunderbird convertible. Then after 2 hours and just as suddenly as it began, the last float went by, and the streets were reopened as the hoards of revelers vanished into the many nearby eateries for dinner. Parades are not something I see very often, but I found this one particularly fun. Maybe it’s the fact I haven’t done this in several years, or I am in a different mindset now. Either way, it was an enjoyable and memorable time.
Sunday morning arrived with an overcast sky that I knew wouldn’t last, but gave me hope that the Pride Festival would not be a scorching affair. You see, the festival on Sunday is held on Pennsylvania Ave, not in a park. That means hot pavement. It would be my only complaint regarding the festival. So with sunscreen applied, camera in hand, and friends in tow, we set out for a day of festivities.
Entering the event you must go through a gauntlet of people with buckets asking for donations. I really didn’t mind this since the festival is run on donations and sponsorships. I dropped my donation in one of them and proceeded to explore the many rainbow clad booths lined up the avenue. Once again, it seemed everyone was represented. From the PFLAG guy holding the sign offering “Free Hugs” to the gay rugby team tossing around a ball in the street, it seemed all were there to have a great time and celebrate. This festival is not unlike many others you’ll see around the country, lots of color, people dressed in costumes and others dressed in their normal attire. Families pushing strollers and plenty of dogs wearing rainbow bandanas were walked up and down the festival grounds. Two performance stages provided a plethora of entertainment options. Everything from folk/country musicians, dance troops, drag, pop, and rock echoed in the background through the entire day from the huge stage speakers. The festival runs from noon until 8pm when the headliners finish their set. And just like the ending of the parade, everyone dispersed into the city high on pride.
I would not say DC has the biggest pride, that honor goes to San Francisco and New York, but I will say it was just about right for me. Good crowds and a great mix of people made it fun without being overwhelming. It wasn’t as risqué as I have seen at San Fran Pride years ago. Nobody walked around completely naked and there were no porn star booths. It was more subtle and celebratory than shocking. I would definitely attend again.