NOVA Pride wants to motivate people all over the region to utilize their event as a space to celebrate themselves for exactly who they are.
Caitlin Barbieri | September 29, 2017
Rainbow flags, pins, beads and bracelets will flood the Bull Run Special Events Center this weekend, as Northern Virginia’s LGBTQ community and allies declare themselves at NOVA Pride’s fourth Pride Festival.
The theme for this year’s festival is “declare yourself!” NOVA Pride wants to motivate people all over the region to utilize their event as a space to celebrate themselves for exactly who they are.
“Declare yourself is about being your true self with unabashed pride. Declare yourself today, tomorrow,and always. Never live in fear of oppression or harassment,” Brian Reach, Founder, President, and Executive Director of NOVA Pride, said.
Since its founding in 2011, NOVA Pride has become the largest LGBTQ organizatoin in Northern Virginia. It has brought together other LGBTQ organizations all over the region and has helped to develop and strengthen the LGBTQ community.
“When I started NOVA Pride there were only some count- based groups that were very grass roots,” Reach said. “They didn’t really communicate with each other, so I felt a need for collaboration to start connecting the dots.”
The organization’s mission is to create awareness of issues, educate others, and celebrate the members of Northern Virginia’s LGBTQ community and their allies. Their Pride Festival this weekend is the organization’s biggest celebration of the year.
“NOVA Pride is an awesome organization to work with, in terms of connecting a lot of us different groups together and connecting the entire community together as a whole, which is their major goal,” said Jordan Costen, Executive Director, Chairman and Founder of Safe Spaces NOVA.
Over 60 vendors will cover the lawn at Bull Run Special Events Center, and businesses from across the region will be at the event to show support for the community.
“Pride is a very unique opportunity for businesses to access our community,” Reach said. “There are business that want to make sure people know they are welcoming and that they can feel good about buying their products.”
Among the businesses and food vendors will be other LGBTQ organizations from around Northern Virginia. Each organization offers something different, and having them represented in one place helps create awareness and develop growth within the community.
“It’s important that we all work together, because we all provide different types of events and spaces for people to be who they are, and hopefully be proud of who they are,” Ryan Bos, Executive Director for Capital Pride Alliance, said.
Capital Pride Alliance has worked with NOVA Pride on many events and is a sponsor of this weekends festival. “One of our goals as an organization is to provide support and reach out to organizations that are trying to create spaces for the LGBTQ+ community to gather and to come together to celebrate who they are as individuals,” Bos said.
The event will feature musical performances by artists such as pianist Sydney Calvelli, hip-hop artist Remy St. Clair, D.C band Wicked Jezabel and many more. There will also be special performances by Drag Queen Anita Minett, Miss NOVA Pride Carrie Monroe, Mister NOVA Pride Shammy Wilson and other performers.
Another exciting addition to NOVA Pride is the Paw Pride dog park, where dog owners can go to celebrate pride with their pups.
Not only will NOVA Pride be a relaxing and fun day, it will also be a chance for visitors to take advantage of important services that will be offered in the testing and wellness area. Kaiser Permanente will be at the event with their mobile health vehicle to provide visitors with easy access to care. NOVA Juniper will be conducting free HIV testing, and INOVA Gay Men’s Health Collaborative will also be there providing other STI testing.
“It is more than a celebration, it is something that is affecting the community in a lot of ways, which is not always obvious,” Reach said.
The event also has three grand marshals who all have strong ties to the Virginia area. They include Kristin Beck, a retired Navy SEAL and trans woman; Gavin Grimm, the transgender Gloucester High School student whose lawsuit for the right to use the correct bathroom sparked a national conversation and went all the way to the Supreme Court; and Ian Alexander, the trans man who plays the character Buck in the Netflix original series the OA.
Between the variety of food, music, special guests, and perfect weather, there will be something at NOVA Pride for every visitor. Reach wants everyone interested to know that this event is about bringing people of all gender identities and sexualities together, and strengthening the LGBTq community of Northern Virginia.
“For a lot of people it’s the first time they felt like they can be who they are, and not feel like anyone is looking at them or judging them,” Reach said.“It really provides a sign of relief and support for people who don’t always feel supported in their day to day life.”
The 2017 NOVA Pride Festival will take place on Sunday, October 1 from 11 AM to 6 PM at Bull Run Special Events Center in Centreville, VA. For more info, click here.