Taking Pride

The GLBT community makes its annual return to Pennsylvania Avenue

The arrival of June means just one thing: Pride season is once again upon us.

Washington, D.C., is currently celebrating a week of events as part of the 31st year of Capital Pride, and this weekend Pride comes to a climax with the big gun events: the Pride Parade and Festival.

The parade comes first, Saturday evening, June 10, with an ongoing wave of GLBT revelers and allies stepping off from P and 22nd streets NW around 6:30 p.m. Roughly 80 contingents — ranging from political candidates to religious congregations to a rainbow of community groups and gay businesses — will wend their way through Dupont Circle and 17th Street to the reviewing stand on P Street between 14th and 15th. (For a full map of the parade route, see page 40.)

Among this year’s entries in the parade, the Capital Pride organizers themselves promise a strong showing, according the chair of the parade committee, Allan Dudley.

”Last year, due to funding, we couldn’t afford to do anything. We drove decorated golf carts,” he says, adding that he’s started a program that helps other organizations build floats for the parade. ”This year, the Capital Pride float has a 48-foot flatbed truck. We’ve really stepped up this year, thanks to a $5,000 donation from the Bank of America and Wes Hobbs Mortgage.”

Dudley won’t spill all the beans on what his team has crafted for their super-sized entry, but he will offer a hint: ”Washington, D.C.’s pride is monumental.”

Though not an official Capital Pride component, the D.C. Dyke March is a grassroots, somewhat clandestine, Pride weekend fixture. This year is no exception, with kick-off scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Dupont Circle. This theme of this year’s unofficial, no-published-route event is ”End the apathy, get involved in your community!”

One proud face will be absent from the Capital Pride Parade, however, for the first time in many years. Although this year marks the 30th appearance of Ella Fitzgerald, a.k.a. Donnell Robinson, one of D.C.’s grande dames of drag, at the Capital Pride Festival, she’s been in the parade nearly as long. For the past few years she reigned as queen of the Ziegfeld’s limo, complete with an entourage of dancing boys. But the closing of Ziegfeld’s and other Southeast gay establishments to make way for the new baseball stadium forced an end to her parade run.”I’ve done it for so long,” says Fitzgerald, who says she’ll likely still be on hand this year, watching the parade with the rest of the crowd. And she’s still excited about her ongoing history with Pride.

”They’re going to see me [performing] on Sunday, so I’m not fading out. The kids know who I am. It’s been a great ride!”

Along with Fitzgerald, other divas hitting the Sunday festival’s main stage will be Thelma Houston, Kimberley Locke, Rachel Panay and CeCe Peniston. Parade Grand Marshals Amy & Freddy, the renowned Chicago cabaret duo, will make their Capital Pride debut.

Filling out the rest of the festival grounds, primarily Pennsylvania Avenue between Third and Seventh streets NW, a second stage — the Arts Corner — offers an abundance of area talent, while about 250 booths will represent everyone from Actors’ Theatre of Washington to ZipCars. For the hungry and the thirsty there are food vendors and beer gardens. (For a map of the festival grounds, see page 41.)

It all comes together to create one of the largest, single-day, annual festivals in the nation’s capital. Larry Stansbury, director of security for all Capital Pride events, says the festival is such a smooth operation that the city uses it as a logistical model for similar events. ”We could stand to have more people hitting the trash cans more often,” he teases, ”but I’m not going to belabor that.”

For more information about Capital Pride see the Official Capital Pride Guide, available wherever you find Metro Weekly, or at www.metroweekly.com/prideguide. Information about the D.C. Dyke March is at www.geocities.com/dcdykemarch.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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