Saturday was the first day of fall, otherwise known as the autumnal equinox, and it was the perfect day for VA Pride’s annual celebration of LGBTQ life and love in our home state. While last year’s PrideFest was held on a hot, sunny day that left everyone thirsty and sunburnt, this year saw cooler temperatures and cloudy skies create the perfect environment for a day of outdoor fun on Brown’s Island.
The city took advantage of this fact, too — the festival grounds felt even more packed than last year’s were. From the main stage through the central concourse of booths and refreshment purveyors, down to the Youth Pavilion era on the island’s west side, the place was crowded with folks of all ages, races, and genders, united by the brightly colored rainbows of Pride.
The entertainment on hand lived up to the excitement on the ground, as a succession of excellent LGBTQ artists brought music, dancing, and drag performances to a delighted crowd. While previous years have sometimes been heavy on straight artists making the sort of beat-heavy dance music that is stereotypically seen as “gay music,” this year brought us a more musically diverse set of performers and a much higher percentage of artists who are part of the LGBTQ community themselves, including Heather Mae, Shy Lennox, and headliner Jake Shears.
Over at the Youth Pavilion, several local queer artists including Dazeases, Madison Turner, and Aster had the opportunity to make some new fans, performing for an attentive crowd consisting mostly of LGBTQ youth thrilled at having an opportunity to openly celebrate their queerness. This is the second year in a row in which I felt a joyful hope for our future spring forth in my breast at the sight of so many teens and tweens decked out in rainbow makeup and Pride-flag capes. There’s nothing like seeing two 15 year old schoolmates excitedly come out to one another and embrace at their newfound solidarity. The kids really are all right.
Booths on the midway featured everything from LGBTQ support groups to local police departments, as well as a wide variety of corporations wanting to show their support, and even quite a few different religious groups. It wasn’t long ago that almost all faith-based organizations seemed united against the LGBTQ community — those who came a few decades before us might be shocked to learn how far we’ve come.
Another fact that could make you realize how far we’ve come is the sheer amount of straight people in our midst. Hetero couples that came down to support our community or just to enjoy the gay atmosphere were relatively common, and made obvious the fact that LGBTQ life is seen more and more as a normal aspect of our modern American society. It’s good to see so many people, both straight and queer, thinking that an LGBTQ Pride party is THE place to be on a Saturday afternoon.
Seriously, there were so many people there. When walking down the midway, you had to pick your path carefully to avoid walking through the middle of a boisterous social group, or disrupting a spontaneous reunion between longtime friends. In the end, this is the most beautiful thing about Pride — the way it brings us all together, creating new connections and uniting our diverse community in one common goal: showing the world that we love ourselves the way we are, and we’re not going away.
Here are some of the splendiferous sights of VA PrideFest 2018:
Photos by Sara Wheeler