Virginia Pride 2013 Announced
All Photos from VA Pride 2012 by Dawn Yilmaz & Wolf Spirit Photography
Mark your Calendars, Saturday September 28th, 2013, at Kanawha Plaza, Virginia Pride Returns to Richmond.
“It’s a great time for everyone to come out and meet each other – to see which organizations and businesses are there to support our community and move us forward. At the end of the day, it’s always a good time,” said Justin Shaia, Director of Virginia Pride. Shaia has been directing the annual event for the last 4 years, a role he kind of fell into, but has taken great pride in ever since.
“Four years ago we were a three-person board and we kind of just did it.” said Shaia about organizing the event. When came in, Pride was held in the Gay Community Center of Richmond’s parking lot. And while this fit the need and was a good time, Shaia and the board had a grander vision for a LGBTQ celebration in Virginia’s capital city.
Last year’s Pride had an estimated 12,000 people in attendance. This massive growth is something Shaia hopes to see continue. “Each year we grow by a couple thousand people and we hope to continue that trend.” National sponsors helped play an important role in getting the event to its current size, but one of the goals of Pride is to support the community as much as possible. “We’ll be focusing locally as much as possible this year, spotlighting local orgs that are in the trenches the rest of the year because we’re only around for one weekend.” Groups like ROSMY and Equality Virginia are squarely in their sites as groups they hope to show their gratitude for.
This idea of balancing local and national influence is a core for any Pride event. Don Powers, Virginia Pride’s Chairperson explained this idea:
“It would be easy enough to line up a bunch of corporate sponsors, raise a bunch of money, and hire an event firm and get them to throw us a party. But all that would be is a party. To me, it’s the whole process leading up to pride, getting people involved, that’s the most important thing… it’s building community. With entertainers and vendors – sure, we want national entertainers and sponsors, but we want our local folks there too, who have been with us all along.”
Powers joined the Pride board last year and has helped with fundraising. He said getting sponsors wasn’t necessarily, hard, it was just a matter of locking them down in a reasonable amount of time.
“None of the corporate decisions are made at the local level, they have to process requests from around the country. It’s hard to plan entertainment if you don’t know how much money you’re going to have… We had one significant sponsor not sign up till 2 weeks before last year. We were thankful, but they missed out on the advertising.” This timeliness is something Pride hopes to tackle early on this year. Powers has already reached out to many of the former sponsors and they are still very interested in participating.
Powers said Pride, to him, really comes down to the good times people have while they are there. He said lining up the entertainment was key to the event, another issue they hope to lock in early on. A “giant hat” already exists with suggestions for acts, and that decision will be made in the next few weeks.
What really moved Powers about last years Pride was the crowd’s interest in staying for the day. “People came and had a good time and they stayed. Prides past, a lot of people came, walked through, and left. But last year people came, spread out a blanket, and stayed for the day.” He was also pleased with the number of friends of the LGBTQ community that came out to enjoy the day. “We had lots of allies last year, lots of families with kids.”
Pride comes down to being gay and being public about it – whether or not it necessarily defines you, Pride is a chance to show the public that the LGBTQ community exists, and in a town like Richmond, and a state like Virginia, that presence is important.
Powers shared a story about a out-late-in-life friend of his who came to his first Pride last year. “He drove around Kanawha Plaza three times, he sat in his car nervous. Once he came in, he had a good time.” Powers said Pride is a big step in the coming out process. “It’s a safe place, yea know? For younger folks in a bad situation – they can come there and be themselves without worry.”
Pride is not easy to get together, beyond the board members that help in broader organizing, it takes a team of dedicated volunteers to make the event go smoothly. Tasks range from physically setting up the event, coordinating the maps, or simply being an informative guide. Robert Key, Volunteer-Coordinator for Virginia Pride explained that they have “people standing at the entrance to greet people, people with the beer trucks and the wine table, people to cleanup and breakdown,” and much, much more.
Key said that the group is looking for only a few simple qualities in a volunteer. “Basically we are looking for someone willing to help; someone who wants to give back to the community and that looks to have a good time and help for a good cause.”
He explained that, for him, volunteering is a personally satisfying way for someone to give back to the community. “You don’t always have a whole lot of money to give to an organization or something, but you always have time, and time can be just as valuable as money,” Key said humbly. “There’s always power in numbers, and we can get a whole lot more done with a lot more people. The feeling that you’ve contributed to a worthwhile cause… that’s a huge benefit.”
Powers and Shaia are excited to get the event together, but, in keeping with their goal to involve the community, they are letting the community pick the theme. Using a simple email submission, you can send your ideas to 2013Theme@vapride.org and let them know what you think! Past themes include “Community,” “Knowledge Power,” and “Loud and Proud.”
If you’ve got any other ideas, the board is pretty open to discussion because they are so early in the planning phase – there are lots of ways to contribute or get involved, start by emailing VAPride@vapride.org for more info.
Stay up-to-date with Virginia Pride Info by likeing them on Facebook, and of course stay tuned to GayRVA as we will be giving you behind the scenes tidbits and other info to help you celebrate the season.
Check out photos from last year’s Virginia Pride here.
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