Washington Blade - June 18, 2004
Mother Nature cooperated beautifully last weekend as thousands of
people came together in D.C. to celebrate the annual Capital
Pride Parade and Festival.
"It was Spectacular," said Chip Lewis, communications chair for
Capital Pride, the annual weeklong series of events produced by
the Whitman-Walker Clinic.
Lewis said Capital Pride officials estimate that 200,000 people
turned out for the Sunday, June 13, Pride Day Festival, though
police have discontinued the practice of issuing official crowd
One day earlier, with sunny weather and a mild 76-degree
temperature, a large and exuberant crowd lined the streets of
D.C.'s Dupont Circle neighborhood for the Capital Pride Parade.
The parade was noticeably larger than last year's, with nearly
100 entries participating compared to about 75 in 2003.
Highlights included continuous performances by the D.C. Different
Drummers, the city's gay marching band; a large continent of
moms, dads and children marching with the Metro D.C. chapter of
Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays; and several sleek, white
stretch limos carrying local, award-winning drag performers.
Similar to past years, the parade drew large contingents of gays
and their supporters from a wide range of religious denominations
as well as gay sporting groups.
The Rainbow Spinnakers Sailing Club traveled atop a float crafted
into a sailboat. Young men in skimpy bathing suits rode along a
"beach" float sponsored by Freddie's Beach Bar & Restaurant of
Crystal City, Va., which won an award for the most original
Other contingents included a "family" on a country-western float
sponsored by the Capitol Hill gay bar Remington's, a group of
"Hairspray"-esque skaters representing Monday Night Skating, and,
of course, the requisite hard-bodied gym bunnies on a float for
Results the Gym.
The parade kicked off about 6:30 p.m. at 22nd and P Streets, NW,
traveled along P Street to Dupont Circle and entered New
Hampshire Avenue before turning south on 17th Street. With crowds
as wide as eight people deep, the parade continued along 17th
Street before ending at 17th and N Streets.
"This is awesome," 25-year-old Amanda Chisolm, of Rockville, Md.,
said immediately after the parade passed where she was standing.
"This is my first time here, and I honestly had no idea what to
expect. But it was a blast. I'll definitely come back next year."
"It was probably the largest crowd I've ever seen, and certainly
the most energetic," said Lewis.
Parade turns political
But it wasn't all fun and games. With the backdrop of a potential
constitutional amendment banning gay marriage looming in Congress
while, at the same time, the nation's first state-sanctioned gay
marriages began taking place last month in Massachusetts, the
evening also presented an important opportunity for participants
to bring their political messages to the masses.
For many, President Bush was the main target. Staff members and
volunteer supporters with the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's
largest gay political group, greeted the crowds on a float atop a
giant flat bed truck while handing out stickers reading "George
W. Bush: 'You're Fired.'" The HRC float, which was greeted with
loud applause, came as the group announced it had endorsed
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.
Dozens of volunteers strolled throughout the parade route
attempting to register new voters by asking them if they wanted
to help remove Bush from office. Volunteers for the Kerry
campaign also waded into the crowds handing out
D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams (D), who walked the entire parade
route, led a contingent of city government officials, including
eight members of the D.C. Council and several Council candidates
as well as D.C. congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D).
Among the other elected officials were Council members David
Catania (R-At-Large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), both of whom are
gay. Other Council members participating in the parade were Carol
Schwartz (R-At-Large), Harold Brazil (D-At-Large), Phil Mendelson
(D-At-Large), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Adrian Fenty (D-Ward 4), and
Sandy Allen (D-Ward 8).
Among those not appearing in the parade was former D.C. Mayor
Marion Barry, who announced last week that he is challenging
Allen for the Ward 8 Council seat in the September Democratic
With the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop, the main stage of the
Capital Pride Festival at Third St. and Pennsylvania Ave., NW,
became a site where entertainers performed and a handful of gay
activists reminded the crowd of the event's 2004 theme: "Pride +
Vote = Power."
Entertainers included singer-songwriters Namoli Brennet, Melissa
Ferrick, Ari Gold, Simone Denny, and Sophie B. Hawkins. Also
appearing on stage was Wes Culwell, the winner of the Bravo
television show, "Boy Meets Boy."
Matthew Cusick, the gay acrobat who was fired from the Canadian
circus company, Cirque del Soleil, spoke about HIV/AIDS
discrimination and his legal fight with the circus company.
The four-block long festival, which ended at Seventh and
Pennsylvania, included a record 180 booths consisting of gay
organizations and companies ranging from American Express and
America Online to small, local arts and crafts shops. Booths set
up by U.S. Airways and the newly established airline company,
Independence Air, appeared to compete with each other for gay
business, as crowds hovered over both booths seeking discount
coupons offered by gay employees who staffed the booths.
A booth sponsored by the Democratic National Committee for the
Kerry-for-president campaign and staffed by members of the
Gertrude Stein Democratic Club drew a steady stream of people
eager to pick up Kerry stickers.
"They're flying off the table," said Stein Club President David
Meadows. Meadows said hundreds of people from the D.C. area, as
well as festival participants from up and down the East Coast,
signed up for e-mail lists organized by gay Kerry supporters.
A separate booth sponsored by the Log Cabin Republicans of D.C.
drew fewer people, but those who stopped by were sympathetic to
the group's goals, according to LCR/DC president Brian Pruitt.
Pruitt said people familiar with gay politics knew Log Cabin has
been campaigning against the proposed constitutional amendment to
ban gay marriage, despite the fact that President Bush supports
The third major political party in the District, the Statehood
Greens, did not participate in Pride.