Metro Weekly

Capital Pride Festival

Street Festival aims to be the biggest and most diverse

Although three decades of evolution have produced a variety of Capital Pride festivals, the 2008 version might not seem so different at first glance. Except, perhaps, for the entrance.

As festival goers make their way to Pennsylvania Avenue this year to celebrate the community, they’ll find quite a few barriers blocking off side streets, and an official entrance on Seventh Street.

”We’re creating a sort of free-flow entrance,” explains Rees Kirkorian, chair of the Capital Pride Festival Committee. ”We’ll have big banners that say ‘Welcome to Pride.’ We do get tourists who have no idea what’s going on, so it’s a nice way to announce who we are.”

Entrants will also be greeted by volunteers sporting oversized foam hands in rainbow colors: ”Give us a hand, donate to Pride.”

Kirkorian says that while the Capital Pride Festival remains free to all, volunteers will encourage attendees to donate $1 as they enter.

”We’re now technically the third-largest [Pride] festival in the country, behind San Francisco and L.A.,” he points out. ”The other thing extraordinary about our festival is that it’s open to the public and free. For the first time, we’re asking for a $1 donation.”

Pointing to entry fees up to $20 in other cities for festivals that are fenced off, Kirkorian says, ”It’s really extraordinary that we can be on historic Pennsylvania Avenue and keep it open to the public.”

What may also seem extraordinary upon entering the festival this year is a new guest: The Illuminator, a 16-by-20 foot screen that will feature music, content from the festival grounds and video hosting by Graham Norton.

With Bruce Vilanch emceeing the main stage and the return of the popular arts stage, Kirkorian estimates 2008 as the largest and most diverse Capital Pride Festival in terms of entertainment and vendors.

But what about weather worries? Namely, rain?

If that’s the case, Kirkorian promises that he and his volunteer crew will have everything under control.

”All the vendors and everyone are under tents. The main stage has a canopy. There are extra tents in the beer garden for shade. The only safety issue would be lightening. We’re hoping for sunny skies, but we’re prepared.”

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.