May is coming to a close which means that June's PRIDE festival is just around the corner. PRIDE is the largest LGBTQA festival in all of Louisiana. It is a wholesome mixture of vision and values, centered around inclusivity, creativity, and diversity. It consists of a plethora of events hosted by bars, restaurants, and the City of New Orleans. That means epic dance parties, crazy happy hours, and parades where you can flaunt your style and strut through the city. But we'll get into that later.
Before we get lost in the fun of the PRIDE weekend, we must remember what PRIDE stands for. They state on their website that they "are using public awareness and education about the LGBT community as a way to combat 'phobias' and discrimination." Although PRIDE is built around the LGBT community, it is an all inclusive event with the goal of creating solidarity between every oppressed group.
Beyond just solidarity, PRIDE's focus is exactly what its namesake makes it out to be: being prideful! Their mission is to create "an atmosphere where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people can be proud of their sexual orientation and gender identity." Through their continual presence around the city, coupled with their strong and assuring voice, they do exactly that. Each year the community becomes stronger, making that voice more powerful, and the city more engaged.
Now let's get into the history. The New Orleans Pride Festival had its humble beginning in the year 1971. A new organization had just started up called the "Gay Liberation Front of New Orleans" and they decided to host a gay pride event titled "Gay In." This was the first ever gay pride event in all of the state of Louisiana. As you might have guessed, the event was a total hit! It spurred recognition in the city, and Gay Liberation Front events were in high demand. In the following years came the 1978 Jackson square event, first to be officially recognized as a 'gay pride event.' Then there was "Gay Fest" held in Washington Square. With each event came more popularity.
After the events snowballed through the seventies, the organization decided to host a parade for Gay Fest. In its earlier years, it changed locations throughout the French Quarter. In 1981 the event was hosted by New Orleans native Ellen DeGeneres. By the end of the 80s, in 1988, the event's name was changed from "Gay Fest," to "Gay Pride." It wasn't until 2002 that the event's current name started to develop; it became "Pridefest." From the years of 2005 through 2011, Pridefest was hosted by the LBGT community center of New Orleans. After they decided to leave, the local Grand Marshals took over. In 2012 they changed the name again to its current form—New Orleans Pride Festival—because the board thought that the phrase 'pride' had become synonymous with gay pride.
Last year, in 2016, New Orleans Pride Fest was the biggest it has ever been, with over 70,000 participants! Over 20 events took place then, and this year, in 2017, we are expecting even more. Look below to see the highlights of what's happening, and decide for yourself the best places to celebrate.
Friday, June 9:
Start off the Pride weekend with a crazy dance party! It's all about getting fired up so it's assured to be lit. The party draws on some classic disco themes and mixes it with the ever-popular electronic music that gets so much attention today. This crazy combo is going to make the dancefloor turn faster than the turntables. DJ Honey Dijon, DJ Vicki Powell, and DJ Mark O'Brien will be spinning the hot wax. The party is hosted in association with SCRUFF, along with Mr. New Orleans Pride Troy Powell and Mr. Louisiana Leather Ross Ransom. Come as you are, strut your stuff in your best Pride Costume, or get leathered up, in order to get down on the dancefloor at this event.
Saturday, June 10:
This is the fest you have all been waiting for! RALLY the team together and take the walk over to 941 Elysian Fields for PrideFest from 2-6pm. This year PrideFest will be chock-full of vendor booths, and a mix of local and national talent. That's right, Rica Shay, Pink Slip, DJ Matt Consola, and, everybody's favorite, Anais St. John will be performing.
Ready to march for a cause you absolutely love? This is it! The New Orleans Pride Parade is a 2.36-mile walk starting in Marigny and ending in the French Quarter. More than 2,500 people will take to the streets of New Orleans to celebrate Unity and ONE COMMUNITY. Will you be in that number? Everyone is encouraged to register in advance via the parade website. On June 10, participants check in at 941 Elysian fields between 4 and 6:30 pm. At 7:30 pm the parade is off! There are some kooky contests for the participants this year, including "most spirited marching group," "best use of pride theme," "best dance performance," and more!
Check out this map of the parade route.
Sunday, June 11:
ONE COMMUNITY: Family Equality Day
After an exhausting weekend of, partying, marching, and being PRIDEful, come down to Longue Vue House and Gardens for equality day. This event has children's activities, vendors, eats, and much more. Added this year is Drag Queen Story Time from 11 am - Noon. Enjoy great stories from some of New Orleans best drag queens. The New Orleans Pride Awards take place at 12:30 for all of the Parade winners and The Kevin Donahugh Community Leader Award.