August 4, 2010 at 3:13 pm EDT | by Joey DiGuglielmo
Down by the seashore

Gay life in small towns, as many have noted, can be tough.

Kim Hinken lives in Edgewater, Md., near Annapolis, and finds community through church and an e-mail group.

“We have happy hours once a month,” she says. “I send out e-mail blasts to everybody on our list and invite them and we meet at a bar in Annapolis. Not a gay bar, because there aren’t any, but just any old bar. If it feels comfortable, we’ll go back. But it is difficult. Very difficult. I can’t imagine being a teen here.”

There is a glimmer of LGBT fabulousness, though. Once a year about 500 — some from D.C. and Baltimore — gather for Chesapeake Pride slated for Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. at Mayo Beach Park in Edgewater, Md., just south of Annapolis. The main draw is for gays in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay/Annapolis region to gather and celebrate but gays from the larger region — it’s about 35 miles from D.C. — sometimes attend because it’s such a contrast to Capital Pride.

“It’s much more intimate and because it’s smaller, it’s more accepting and manageable,” says Rev. Wayne Schwandt, pastor of the mostly gay Metropolitan Community Church of the Chesapeake, a small parish of about 25 that meets on Sunday evenings. “I think a lot of people are getting to the point where they find Capital Pride overwhelming but this is much easier to navigate and you can virtually talk to everybody who’s there … it feels sort of like Capital Pride did in 1975 when Deacon [Maccubbin] started it and it was just a block party.”

Schwandt and a group of volunteers started Chesapeake Pride 11 years ago. The Chesapeake Pride Planning Committee consists mostly of MCC Chesapeake members who plan the annual event. It’s the only Maryland Pride event besides Baltimore Pride. About 550 attended last year and it continues to grow each year. Gays from D.C. and Baltimore are welcome but the event was conceived to give the LGBT community in Anne Arundel, St. Mary’s and Calvert counties, where there are no gay bars and a dearth of gay events, access to an LGBT festival.

Organizers say Mayo Beach Park makes for a great Pride setting. Swimsuits are encouraged. Bands play nearby and a drag show is held under an indoor pavilion with large sliding doors on all sides. The committee rents the park for the day. A classic car show, kids’ area and face painting are again on this year’s schedule. Drag performer Stormy Vain will emcee for the fourth consecutive year. About 40 booth vendors have registered, again a record.

Chesapeake Pride is free but $5 donations are requested. The group usually breaks even despite the approximately $10,000 Hinken guesses it costs to produce. A few years there has been a slight profit. It’s always given to a local gay-straight alliance or LGBT charity if any money, even a few hundred dollars, is left over. Sponsors and donations help.

“It’s a very laid back, very casual atmosphere,” Hinken says. “Because it’s in a park setting right on the bay, I think it gives the kind of atmosphere where you feel you can really be yourself. It’s very family friendly, there’s a kids area. They love the water and the beach and the playground. It’s a great place for families to come for the day.”

Parking is free and abundant in two nearby fields. And a bathhouse area gives revelers a chance to shower before departing.

“Not that kind of bathhouse,” Hinken says with a laugh.

Chesapeake Pride
Mayo Beach Park on the Chesapeake Bay
Edgewater, Md.
Saturday from noon to 6 p.m.
$5 donation

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

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