There are fewer than two weeks left before Northern Virginia’s LGBT community will have its first opportunity to celebrate its own Pride festivities, independent of D.C., on Oct. 5 at the Bull Run Special Events Center in Centreville. Typically, due to its proximity to the District, LGBT people from Northern Virginia find themselves lumped into the annual Capital Pride celebrations as simply an extension of the larger Metropolitan D.C. area. But this year, the suburbs are branching out on their own endeavor.
Brian Reach, president and executive director of NOVA Pride, the social, educational and advocacy group behind the organization of the first Northern Virginia Pride, says that although the celebration will be lacking a parade like the annual one that occurs during Capital Pride each June, there will be plenty of booths featuring community organizations, service organizations and clubs from throughout the region. Prior to the festival, on Oct. 2, NOVA Pride will also hold an interfaith service at the Metropolitan Community Church of Northern Virginia.
“It’s really the first opportunity for LGBT Northern Virginians to access the services available to them,” Reach says of the festival. “It’s also a chance to reach out to others in the LGBT community.”
Unlike D.C.’s festival, which takes place downtown, Northern Virginia Pride will take place on grass, allowing the audience space to sit with food and beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, while listening to speakers and watching more than 25 different performances by variety of headliners, including Wicked Jezebel, Billy Winn, Dance Manifesto and Playground Etiquette. Another stage at the venue will feature more family- and child-oriented programming.
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Kristin Beck, a transgender woman and former Navy SEAL who has received publicity for sharing her personal story, will serve as the grand marshal of the festival, and will address the crowd, as will the head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.
Reach also says that local fire departments and the Fairfax County Police Department will make appearances at the festival, with the Fairfax County police flying a helicopter, which can then be explored by children attending the festival. Another event, of the family-friendly nature, includes a drag potato sack race, where participants will be expected to don wigs and novelty clothing items before bounding away in their burlap sacks.
In the months preceding the Pride celebration, NOVA Pride has hosted more than 300 events to help raise funds for the festival, including several happy hours, a monthly event at Redrocks Metropolitan Bistro in Arlington, and another featuring karaoke in Reston. In total, Reach estimates that NOVA Pride has raised up to $25,000 to defray the cost of the festival, with $20,000 coming from individual donors, vendors and sponsors.
The organization also hosts a weekly event each Tuesday at IOTA Club & Café that is designed to serve as a social mixer, as well as gin up interest in the upcoming Pride festivities. So far, Reach believes the organization has been successful in promoting the festival.
“We’re expecting several thousand people to attend,” he says. “This is the first year, so we don’t know how big it will get. The sky is really the limit, and next year, we hope to grow so that more people will come once they are aware of it.”
Northern Virginia Pride’s Interfaith Service is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 2 from 7-10 p.m. at the Metropolitan Community Church of Northern Virginia, 10383 Democracy Lane, Fairfax, Va. Reception to follow.
The Northern Virginia Pride Festival will take place from 12-7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 5 at Bull Run Special Events Center, 7700 Bull Run Dr., Centreville, Va. For more information about NOVA Pride or other upcoming events, visit novapride.org.