D.C Mayor Muriel Bowser gave the signal for the start of the 31st annual 17th Street High Heel Race on Tuesday night as thousands of spectators lined both sides of the street to watch more than 100 runners dressed in drag compete in an event viewed as the city’s largest Halloween party.
Among the public officials attending the race this year in addition to Bowser were City Council Chair Phil Mendelson; City Council member Jack Evans, whose ward hosts the annual event; and D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham.
As has been the practice in past years, in the hour preceding the 9 p.m. start of the race, many of the drag contestants in the race join dozens of others dressed in Halloween costumes in parading up and down 17th Street, N.W., between P and R Streets to the loud cheers of spectators. Many of the spectators view the festivities from the upper floor windows and balconies of the apartment buildings that line the street.
“We celebrate our D.C. values every single day,” Bowser told the crowd from a stage set up at the starting point of the race at 17th and R St.
“We are working together to build the best city in the world,” she said in noting that she will be part of a contingent heading for Paris later this week to advocate for D.C. to be selected as the host city for the 2022 Gay Games.
“And I don’t care who lives on Pennsylvania Avenue,” she said, drawing laughter and cheers from the crowd. “We are fighting every single day to protect and promote our D.C. values. So are you ready?”
Minutes later she gave the signal for a horn to be blown to start the race.
A short time later a young man dressed in drag that identified himself as Sue Pository became the first to cross the finish line as the winner.
“It was cool coming down the finish line knowing I had a good lead,” he told the Washington Blade. “And being able to enjoy the experience and just coming in for the win was cool. Everyone was cheering,” he said.
When not competing in events like the High Reel Race he said he works in D.C. as a real estate agent.
Newsham said he deployed about the same number of police officers to patrol the event and divert traffic away from the section of 17th Street closed for the race.
“People from all over the city come down here for the High Heel Race,” he said. “It’s an awesome event. If you look around you can see everybody is having fun, everybody is smiling. We anticipate we’re not going to have any problems here tonight.”
Joining Newsham at the event were Lt. Brett Parson, who oversees the department’s Special Liaison Division, including the LGBT Liaison Unit; and Sgt. Jessica Hawkins, supervisor of the LGBT Liaison Unit.
The event was founded and continues to be organized by the 17th Street gay bars JR.’s and Cobalt. But Sheila Alexander-Reid, director of the Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office, said that for the first time the mayor’s office this year became the official sponsor of the High Heel Race. The Washington Blade served as media sponsor.
Organizers named Bowser for the second year in a row as one of three grand marshals for the race. The other two named this year were Ruby Corado, founder and executive director of the LGBT community services center Casa Ruby; and drag performer Banaka.
Click HERE to see a photo gallery of the event.