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VA Pride Announces 2018 PrideFest Theme and Presenting Sponsor

With a theme of "This Is Me," this year's PrideFest will help everyone sing out their pride.

Marilyn Drew Necci | May 7, 2018

On Thursday, Virginia Pride announced that 2018′s VA PrideFest will take place on Saturday, September 22. They also unveiled their partnership with this year’s presenting sponsor, Capital One, as well as the theme of this year’s festival: This Is Me. The theme and presenting sponsor were publicly announced at the first of VA Pride’s Thirst Happy Hour events at Quirk Rooftop, which will be taking place on the first and third Thursday of every month throughout the summer.

The theme was inspired by the song of the same name from the hit musical The Greatest Showman. Sung in the film by Lettie Lutz, the bearded lady played by Keala Settle, it’s an inspirational anthem proclaiming a refusal to be shamed by society for our differences, taking joyful pride in being exactly who we are. For obvious reasons, this song struck a chord with VA Pride’s Board of Directors, especially President James Millner. “We wanted to provide an opportunity for folks to stand up and say, ‘This is who I am, and I am worthy of dignity, respect, and love,’” Millner said.

That this song has become a bit of a universal LGBTQ anthem since its release is proven by the fact that the second annual Petersburg Out & Proud, which will take place a week earlier than VA PrideFest on September 16, also has a theme of “This Is Me.” Millner chuckled at the mention of the coincidence. “Great minds think alike is the way I look at it,” he said, making sure to emphasize that there was no friction between the similar groups over the name. “I think we both had a really good idea and I’m happy about it. The graphic representations of it look different, so it’s all good.”

Capital One was announced as presenting sponsor for this year’s PrideFest both at the Thirst event and at an event Friday morning at Capital One’s local headquarters. At that event, Capital One officers Patrick Coleburn and Kuong Lam presented VA Pride with a check for $15,000.

“We are incredibly grateful to them for taking that leap with us. It’s a huge vote of confidence for us as an organization to have a company like Capital One step up in such a big way,” Millner said. “I think it also demonstrates the commitment Capital One has to diversity and inclusion. They demonstrate that through the non-discrimination policies they have for their workforce, that include both sexual orientation and gender identity. They have a very active LGBTQ employee group, and they have really embraced us.”

Patrick Coleburn and Kuong Lam of Capital One present VA Pride with a check for $15,000. Left to right: Patrick Coleburn, Kuong Lam, James Millner, Alexsis Rodgers, Brandon Horton, Jon Melvin, Carsen Young. Photo courtesy VA Pride.

Millner credited early and extensive support from Capital One as a key factor in VA Pride’s ability to grow over the past decade. “Capital One has been a supporter of VA Pride for a very long time, going on ten years,” he explained. “They were one of the first big corporate sponsors to step up when this organization that exists today was in its infancy. Their foundation of support is a critical factor to our ability to grow as we have. We could not have asked for a better partner than Capital One.”

VA Pride hopes to make this year’s PrideFest on Sept. 22 the culmination of a summer full of Pride-related events. In addition to the regular Thirst happy hour events at Quirk Rooftop, the group has a variety of other events planned. These will include their third annual Love On Tap, planned for June 24 at Hardywood, as well as an event at the Broadberry in late June. “We firmly believe that as an organization we have a responsibility to do to be more than just a single event in September,” said Millner. “We want to put on a big event in September, but we also want to make sure that we’re connecting to folks, and connecting folks to each other, throughout the year. More stuff will develop as we move towards the summer, but we’re thrilled with the progress we’re making.”

Here at GayRVA, we’ll ensure that you’re the first to know about all the great VA Pride events to come this year — including, of course, the two Pride Guide magazines we’ll be producing in collaboration with VA Pride between now and PrideFest on September 22. The first one will be making its way to you next month — watch this space.

Top photo: James Millner, President of VA Pride, and Kuong Lam of Capital One. Courtesy VA Pride.