8 things you can’t miss at the Philly Pride Parade and Festival

Flying the Pride flag proudly. | Patrick Hagerty from the PrideDay Fest and Parade 2016
Patrick Hagerty from the PrideDay Fest and Parade 2016

Originally conceived to commemorate the Stonewall riots in New York City — the start of the LGBT-civil-rights movement — Philly Pride’s 29th annual Pride-Day Parade and Festival invites old friends and new, young and old, to celebrate the gay/trans community while still honoring that June night in 1969. For three days and nights this weekend, Philadelphia is rainbow-colored and proud of it.

“The purpose of this parade is different from any other gay parades, including Outfest, which is about coming out,” says Franny Price, the executive director of Philly Pride since 1998. “We went from protest to celebration, but we never forgot that past. This is about being visible, and with that visibility, we are walking for diversity. Young, old, black, white, male, female, doctors, lawyers, mechanics — you name it.”

Here is a handful of the best reasons to attend the PrideDay Parade and Festival.

Henri David

The proprietor of the Halloween jewelry boutique with his superpopular annual Halloween Ball is the official master of ceremonies of the PrideDay Parade at Penn’s Landing. But look for the unofficial mayor of the Gayborhood to make fashion-forward appearances throughout the entire three-day run. As far as “can’t miss” goes, David is the very definition.

The Philly Pride Kick-Off Block Party

At 12th and Locust, The Philly Pride Kick-Off Block Party starts things off Friday night, and the Gayborhood comes alive with nearly every bar on the block hosting its own DJ staging area. To go with the dancing, there is everything from mechanical shark rides (“instead of mechanical bulls,” says Price) and blow-up horse races. Plus, this block party is the last time you can get discounted ($10) wristbands for Sunday’s festival to save yourself grief with the long lines into the Penn’s Landing Great Plaza.

The William Way Homecoming

With William Way as the official nonprofit landing strip for LGBT Philadelphia on a daily basis, the homecoming Saturday at 11 a.m. will become a ground zero for anyone who has been involved in its care, feeding and activism within the past 40-plus years of serving the community.

Mr. and Miss Philly LGBT Pride 2017

Just like your high school prom, every Pride Fest needs its royalty. This year it’s the 81-year-old Molasses Jones and the ever-lovely Tina Montgomery, who were recently crowned at Bob & Barbara’s. Let their reigns be fruitful.

Drag queen Sandy Beach

Beach has been an Atlantic City/Philadelphia entertainment icon for so long that Ben Franklin better look over his shoulder to see if he’s still got a gig representing the city. Loud, brassy, ballsy and bold, Beach will be a special guest performer at Sunday’s Pride Parade, but expect impromptu performances wherever she might be.

Dance troupes at the parade

From 13th and Locust (where the parade route starts) to Penn’s Landing’s Great Plaza (where it ends and the rest of the Pride event is staged), there will be a fair share of Philadelphia acts shaking their rumps off on Sunday, starting at 11:30 a.m. Look out for troupes like Kemar Jewel & the Xcel Dance Crew and D2D: Dare to Dance.

Comedian Sandra Valls

Los Angeles-based comedian Valls has several unique perspectives that landed her on the Latin Divas of Comedy and the Red, Hot & Herlarious tours, mainly in that she is both Mexican and a lesbian. She’s also outrageously funny, to boot.

Nancy and Beth

The headliners of the Pride Fest Parade, Nancy and Beth (Megan Mullally, aka Karen Walker on “Will and Grace,” and Stephanie Hunt, an actress who was most recently in “The Catch” on NBC but is best known for her role in “Friday Night Lights”), have created a comically vaudevillian musical duet that’s more of an all-singing, all-dancing live revue than your everyday singer-songwriter act. 

For all the grand public show of visibility and acceptance that the PrideDay Festival and Parade brings to the fore, the event is also about the intimacy of love and resolution, of being able to show one’s true colors.

“This is my first Pride Fest as a married man, as we were married on St. Patrick’s Day, and this is his first Pride Fest, period,” says longtime Pride Day and Outfest photographer Patrick Hagerty. “I can’t wait to share the day with him and just enjoy all that having such pride brings us.”

The 29th annual PrideDay Parade and Festival, Friday, June 16 through Sunday, June 18. All times and prices: phillygaypride.org.

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