More than 250,000 people donned glitter, rainbow beads and, for some, their most colorful tank tops this weekend for Capital Pride, D.C.’s largest annual LGBT event.
Saturday’s parade featured former Minnesota Vikings player-turned-LGBT activist Chris Kluwe, a straight ally, as grand marshal. Marchers included D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and City Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), as well LGBT groups ranging from lesbian motorcyclist group Dykes on Bikes to the Gay Men’s Chorus. A contingent form the U.S. Armed Forces Color Guard notably participated for the first time this year.
Participants parading in Saturday’s 85-degree heat were met with attendees cheering and waving rainbow flags along the parade route, which started at 22 and P streets N.W. and coursed through Dupont Circle, along 17th Street and finally concluded at 14th and R streets, N.W.
A small crowd of protesters joined the fray on P Street with anti-gay signs. The parade’s LGBT participants and allies drowned out their opposition with boos.
Sunday’s festival featured booths from local business and corporate sponsors. Rita Ora, Karmin, Bonnie McKee, Betty Who and DJ Cassidy as well as a series of local drag queens performed musical numbers throughout the day on the Capitol Stage, just blocks from the Capitol.
Many of the festival’s main stage acts were delayed, some for hours.
“We had one of our performer’s sound check run over by 45 minutes before we even started the show. From then, it’s hard to inch back up,” Michelle Mobley, communications director for Capital Pride, said. She said none of the performers had sound issues during their performances, but that the “trickle-down effect” of starting 45 minutes late led organizers to adjust the order of performances so headliners could catch their flights later in the evening.
Ba’Naka, who performed with the Ladies of Town, posted a Facebook comment that said, “All I know is I was slated to perform at 4:15. I didn’t touch that stage ’til almost 8:30.”
The parade seemed to run more smoothly.
“It’s a madhouse. It’s a mob scene,” Alexis DuCraix, a drag queen with Green Lantern, said as her group lined up for the parade Saturday. “But it’s wonderful. I think we forget sometimes that we are one giant community. We get caught up in this clique or this subgroup, but I think it’s vital to come together and realize that we are one, and we stand together, regardless of differences.”
As the LGBT community gains a foothold in the mainstream, others argue that Pride festivals might need to adjust their agenda.
“Why have ‘em?” asked Fran Petro, who works at Orbitz Travel. “When we were younger, there was no equality, so there was a reason to march.”
“They’ll start to evolve,” her partner, Carol, noted, pointing out the increasing number of straight allies attending Pride parades across the country. “It will turn into a festival of everything, and that’s OK.”
Pup Tripp, the current “international puppy” from the 30-person leather contingent, said he’s celebrating at the Pride parade for the 17th time this year.
“I think it’s very good that we get out there, show our pride and the strength we have,” he said. “We’re gonna come out and have fun, doesn’t matter what you tell us.”
Others, from political and religious groups, came with an agenda.
“This is my first Pride ever. I’ve been a big fan of Hillary [Clinton] for the past five years, and I figure if I was going to march in the parade I might as well march for Hillary” said Rafael Eggebrecht, a representative for Ready For Hillary, a political action committee raising money for a potential Clinton presidential campaign. “I do hope that should she run and should [same-sex marriage] still be an issue in a year or so — if the Supreme Court doesn’t act — that she’ll advocate for same-sex marriage and equality in all 50 states,” he said.
Donna Sokal, a member of Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, a congregation with a large number of LGBT members, said representatives from her church wanted to attend Pride even though the Christian church has largely stood on the sidelines of the LGBT movement.
“I think it’s really important for the church to always show up and support people that the bigger church isn’t always supporting,” Sokal said, suggesting that the church should fight to combat its “anti-homosexual, hypocritical, and judgmental” reputation.
“Christians in the larger society have become known for who we’re against and not who we’re for,” she said. We still have ways to go to show people that love doesn’t always come in a way that we grew up thinking, like ‘Little House on the Prairie.’”