It's been eight years since Rev. Wayne Schwandt, a pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of the Chesapeake, suggested having a Pride festival in Annapolis.
''I was told by the gay community it could not happen,'' Schwandt recalls. But what started out as a ''very small picnic'' in a park near Maryland's state capital, hit a growth spurt last year, attracting more than 600 people to the area, Schwandt says. He credits the attendance to the outreach conducted by the festival's planning committee on networking Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook.
''I am very proud that last year we had 600 people in attendance, when we had never had more than 100 people before,'' he says. ''By the time the festival happened last year we had outgrown our [original] venue and so we moved to the [Anne Arundel] County Fairgrounds where we have lots of space.''
Schwandt says the new location in Crownsville, Md., has enough room for at least 10,000 people.
And while the celebration has continued through eight years, Schwandt says this year's Chesapeake Pride Festival, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., on Saturday, Aug. 18, a little more than 30 miles northeast of D.C., at the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds, really marks the second annual ''full-fledged festival,'' which includes performances, food and exhibitors.
''It is a great opportunity to gather in a non-major metropolitan area and celebrate Pride,'' Schwandt says.
Dubbed ''United for Equality,'' this year's festival features 14 performers, including drag artist Stormy Vain from Temple Hills, Md.; D.C.-based singer/songwriter Tom Goss; Nedra Johnson, from New York City, and many more who will perform on two different stages. Attendants also have the chance to take to the stage during the event's ''Amateur Drag Queen & King Show at 2 p.m. on the main stage.
Schwandt says the vast majority of the funds raised are used to cover operating costs. Last year Chesapeake Pride Festival's planning committee, consisting of about 20 people, contributed a $500 grant to the Gay-Straight Alliance of Annapolis High School, and $2,000 to the MCC of the Chesapeake, which Schwandt says serves a predominately gay and lesbian spiritual community.
Admission to the festival is $9 at the gate, or $5 advance purchase by Aug. 24. Ticket purchase and information on the festival and events is available at www.chesapeakepridefestival.org.