Milo Richards, Contributing Writer
VA Pridefest hosted one of its largest crowds this Saturday, Sept. 24 with notable headliners, colorful flags, booths and donations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented Virginia’s Pridefest from occurring for two years in a row, according to Virginia Pride program director James Millner. He encourages this Pridefest to be an opportunity for gathering, regardless of the circumstances that prevent celebration from occurring, Millner said.
“We haven’t had Pride since 2019,” Millner said. “I hope people learn that they should never take our ability to gather in this way for granted, whether that’s because of a pandemic or whether that’s because of a political environment.”
Pridefest consisted of mainstage headlining drag queens, musicians and artists, such as Queen of Bounce, Big Freedia, Leikeli 47 and Rosè from “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Amy Alderman DJed the mainstage, according to Pridefest’s website.
The organizer of Pridefest, Virginia Pride, was established in the mid-70s and acts as a resource for LGBTQ+ people to honor and celebrate equality for all sexualities and gender identities, according to its website.
VA Pridefest is a free event, however donations are encouraged, as they keep the festival free. There are numerous pieces, such as budgeting and then promoting the event that actually go into planning this event, Millner said.
VA Pridefest at Brown’s Island honors inclusivity, diversity and representation, according to Millner.
Millner said he and his team needed to create the budget and build out entertainment based off of that budget. After analyzing the budget, they recruit volunteers and then begin promoting the event.
Millner said he feels that Pride brings communities together and is a statement for the LGBTQ+ community that includes our allies, friends and family members.
“We are here, we are a vibrant thread in the fabric of this community,” Millner said. “We belong here, and we have a place here.”
Virginia Pride committee member Reina Palencia said she began working as a volunteer just before the pandemic began in 2019, which inspired her to then join the Virginia Pride Committee and become more active within the event’s planning process. Richmond Pridefest is a good place for people that don’t feel they have somewhere to fit into society, she said.
“It’s this place to have our community get together and celebrate ourselves, celebrate each other but also remind each other of what we have in common,” Palencia said.
The importance of support from the Richmond community with resources available and accessible to them, Palencia said.
“The need for it was really to celebrate, have a place to celebrate and to stand up for the same things sister prides or our sibling prides were doing, which was against or for LGBTQIA rights and against depression,” Palencia said.
Founder of clothing brand Qweer Clothing Joshua Bouman hosted a tent at Pridefest. Bouman opened his business in March 2020, where he screen prints and embroiders T-shirts, hoodies and hats, according to Bouman.
“I wanted to design something that is for our community by our community,” Bouman said.
Bouman said he wanted to open a business that was designed by someone who is passionate and a part of the community themselves, since a lot of the large corporate brands don’t have this same mission.
“There’s lots of interest particularly when I come to these events — it’s our crowd,” Bouman said. “I feel the love, and I love it.”