Under the warm, clear skies of a beautiful Charlottesville Sunday, locals gathered to celebrate queer pride at a street fair at IX Art Park. Once the celebration began, people flocked to see the art exhibits and get involved in supporting the local LGBTQ+ community.
One of the events that drew the most attention was the drag show, which started at 12:00 p.m. As soon as the first queen, Bebe Gunn, danced passionately onto the stage, everyone in the audience was ecstatic. Despite the heat that the heavy outfits must have caused, the Queens put on an extravagant, crowd-pleasing show, with many festival-goers offering tips to the dancers entering the audience.
After the drag show, several musical acts took the stage, along with a DJ, to wrap up the event. The performances brought people of all ages together to enjoy the music and celebrate a day of expressing pride through art.
The space hosted several businesses showing their support for the local community, many of them selling merchandise with every type of pride flag imaginable. Tie-dye shirts were everywhere and attendees could buy clothing in many alternative styles. Local businesses, religious groups and many food trucks were also in attendance, and even political action groups like the local Democratic Party and Abortion Fund set up tents.
Throughout the day, the space was filled with expressive fashion. Many people proudly wore flags as capes, wore colorful rainbow suspenders and flaunted flashy jewelry. Many contestants and artists didn’t hold back on using the loudest and proudest part of their wardrobe. From every angle of the event, the outfits were stylish and full of personality.
In an indoor area, attendees could enjoy a drink at a bar while several queer films were screened for free. Most were short films or documentaries chronicling LGBTQ+ experiences whose titles included Journey Through Gender, Passing, and To Be A Man. This quieter interior space also featured a walk-through art exhibit that spanned the entire building and contained a variety of different multi-sensory artworks to walk through and interact with. Throughout the park, the atmosphere was bright, friendly, and full of chatter.
A key aspect of the event’s ability to promote artistic freedom came from its support for the LGBTQ+ community. Many of the organizations that have come to support the Charlottesville Pride Street Fair are focused on creating a more loving environment at home.
Representing Sarah Jackson PFLAG Blue Ridge – a support group for LGBTQ+ people and their friends or family members – and explained that their commitment is based on personal experience.
“I personally joined because my child is trans and I wanted to make sure as a parent that I was helping them safely through this journey — emotionally and physically,” Jackson said. “So [the support group] helped my family a lot.”
The university’s LGBTQ+ centers also lined up outside in the park. Alex Winkowski, a full-time employee at the center, noted that the street fair provided a valuable opportunity to expand the center’s reach outside of the university’s student community.
“We’ve been a part of the C’ville Pride Festival every year since I’ve been here, except during COVID,” Winkowski said. “I think it’s important that when we have merch and [when] We have ways to spread love outside of the U.Va. Circle. It’s an opportunity to just come out and show support to the wider community.”
Similar sentiments for showing support echoed in the colorful setting created by IX Art Park and Charlottesville Pride. At a time when the acceptance of LGBTQ+ people are threatened in Virginialocal organizations came together to support queer arts and the Charlottesville community at large, and provided a space for a diverse crowd of LGBTQ+ people and allies to celebrate their identity.