Virginia PrideFest empowers LGBTQIA community

Virginia PrideFest is the largest annual celebration of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community in the Commonwealth. The event is put on by Virginia Pride and is held in downtown Richmond on Brown's Island. Virginia Tourism Corporation, www.Virginia.org
Photo provided by James Millner.

Brown’s Island will soon be the site of celebration when Virginia PrideFest 2018 rolls into town Sept 22.

The free, family-friendly festival focuses on the empowerment of the LGBTQIA community in Richmond and throughout Virginia.

Attended by more than 30,000 people last year, it is the Commonwealth’s largest LGBTQIA celebration.

Hosted by Richmond nonprofit Virginia Pride, the event will feature national, regional and local entertainment acts including Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters and Alexis Michelle from “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

“The day itself is magical,” said Virginia Pride President James Millner. “You can feel the love in the air.  It’s happy and fun and very, very gay.”

The theme for this year’s PrideFest is “This Is Me.” Millner said the theme choice was made in support of the idea that “pride is about empowerment.”

“We chose this theme because we want people to feel accepted and celebrated for who they are and how they identify without exception,”Millner said. “We want LGBTQIA people to be emboldened to stand up and say, ‘This is who I am, and your approval is neither requested nor required. But I do demand your respect and expect to be treated with dignity.’”

Virginia Pride was founded in the 1970s. From its humble beginnings of a group made up mostly of men, the organization has now developed to include a diverse range of identities.

Starting as a small festival which, according to Millner, was largely ignored by the media, PrideFest has now grown to attract thousands. Included in this year’s audience is Mayor Levar Stoney, who said he is “thrilled to join everyone… to celebrate love and friendship in our great city.”

VCU sophomore Jason Oakes, who attended Virginia PrideFest in 2017, said he’s excited for the festival’s return to the riverfront.

“I loved how PrideFest was so welcoming to anyone that showed up,” Oakes said. “Everyone was so social and ready to meet new people, so it was awesome. I definitely think it is an event everyone should go to because there is so much to do.”

Those interested in Virginia PrideFest and Virginia Pride can visit www.vapride.org for more information. PrideFest starts Saturday at 11 a.m. and will close at 9 p.m.

Virginia PrideFest is the largest annual celebration of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community in the Commonwealth. The event is put on by Virginia Pride and is held in downtown Richmond on Brown’s Island.
Virginia Tourism Corporation, www.Virginia.org. Photos provided by James Millner

Andrew Ringle, Contributing Writer

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