October 26, 2016 at 1:33 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Thousands turn out for High Heel Race
High Heel Race, gay news, Washington Blade

City officials and thousands of spectators turned out Tuesday for the 30th annual High Heel Race. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Thousands of spectators lined both sides of 17th Street, N.W., near Dupont Circle on Tuesday night as more than 150 runners dressed in drag competed in the 30th annual 17th Street High Heel Race.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who served as one of three grand marshals for the race, gave the signal to start the race by shouting through a bullhorn while standing at the starting line at the corner of 17th and R streets.

Observers who attend the race each year said there appeared to be a record number of runners this year, all who whom wore high heel shoes as they ran, walked or strutted down 17th Street to the finish line at Church Street.

“It’s fantastic every year,” Bowser told the Washington Blade shortly after the race ended. “You see people come from all over our region to celebrate the diversity of our city,” she said.

“And it’s just wonderful to be in one of D.C.’s great neighborhoods – great nightlife, great neighbors and people just having fun,” she said.

Bowser was accompanied at the starting line by D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), whose ward has served as host for the High Heel Race since its start in 1986; and Sheila Alexander-Reid, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

The High Heel Race’s Facebook page says the event is organized by the non-profit group Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets with the help of the 17th Street gay bars JR.’s and Cobalt/Level One.

The Facebook page identified the winner of this year’s race as a drag queen known as “Pig Farmah.”

Also serving as grand marshals this year were drag queens Ba’Naka and Birdie LaCage.

D.C. Interim Police Chief Peter Newsham headed a contingent of several high-level police officials who attended this year’s High Heel Race and who supervised more than two-dozen police officers who patrolled the area and directed the closing of nearby streets to make way for the race and the large crowd of spectators.

“I got to see the entire race go by,” said Newsham. “It’s a fantastic event every year.”

Newsham said that similar to previous years, none of his officers reported any problems surfacing at the event.

“We usually don’t have any problems at this event,” he said. “People come out here to have a great time.”

One of the runners in the race, who said he uses the drag name Sissy Voom, joked that he had a political reason for competing in the race.

“Truly I’m scared about a Trump presidency,” he said. “And I thought the best way to ensure that he doesn’t win is to wear high heels and run down the street for 10 blocks.”

Another runner who spoke with the Blade before the race began and who identified himself as Sam said he entered this year became “it’s just such a fun activity.”  When asked if he thought he had a chance of winning, he replied: “Walking in heels is a skill and I think that anyone that’s able to win is very talented. I don’t think it will be me.”

Longtime gay activist and Blade commentator Peter Rosenstein, who lives in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, said this year’s race and crowd stood out as one of the largest ever.

“I think we had more runners this year than ever before and the crowds were huge,” he said. “It was as always an incredibly peaceful event. People are just having a great time.”

Added Rosenstein: “The police are phenomenal. They’re friendly. They’re helpful,” he said. “I think this is one of the signature events in the District of Columbia.”

Click here to see more photos from the event.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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