Essential Orientation

Your guide to navigating this weekend’s Capital Pride parade, festival and parties

June 7, 2013

What makes this year’s Capital Pride parade (tagline: “Unleash the Superhero in You”) so super? Lynda Carter, best known for her role on the ’70s TV series “Wonder Woman,” is Super Grand Marshal of the affair. Imbued with the power to lead float after fabulous float of dolled-up drag queens, oiled-up muscle men and other members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community — including Mayor Vincent Gray and a slew of city council members — Carter will make Saturday a double-rainbow day. (No, really. She can literally summon a double rainbow. With her mind.)

The parade is the centerpiece of Capital Pride 2013, a weeklong celebration of gay pride featuring concerts by up-and-coming acts, a street festival and events that everyone can enjoy.

This year, Capital Pride will expand into a project called Have Pride 365, designed to support the work of local LGBT community organizations year-round.

With gay marriage legal in D.C. and 12 states, and 51 percent of Americans supporting gay marriage (according to a recent Pew survey), is there still a need for a raucous parade originally meant to promote visibility?

“In years past, the parade was one of the only times that gay people could be out and proud,” says Ryan Bos, executive director of Capital Pride. “It may have been the only time they felt safe to do so. But things have improved, and more people feel safe to be out and proud all year round.”

A New Route: The route is longer this year with a new endpoint. “This acknowledges growth along the 14th Street corridor and our support for the gay community there,” Ryan Bos says. “It also allows us to finish the parade near our presenting sponsor, Whitman-Walker Health.” Whitman-Walker has been a hub for health services to gay Washingtonians for 40 years, leading the fight for AIDS prevention and services in the city since the 1980s.

The Capital Pride parade kicks off at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at 22nd and P streets NW and will end around 7:30 p.m. at 14th and R streets NW. Bring water. Wear sunscreen.

Five Faces to Watch For

Pride is the ultimate celebration of D.C.’s diverse gay community — Mardi Gras, Independence Day and a giant family reunion rolled into one. Some of the community’s most special leaders are represented in the parade, either marching or on floats.

Super Grand Marshal Lynda Carter: You know her as Wonder Woman from the ’70s TV series of the same name, but Carter has also long been known for her support of the LGBT community. And she’s a local girl: She lives with her husband in Potomac, Md.

The Academy of Washington’s Veronica Blake/Rob Amos: Established in 1961, the Academy of Washington is one of the oldest drag organizations in the country, holding regular drag pageants open to the public at the Black Fox Lounge, Remingtons and Town. All types and eras of drag are represented, and board member Veronica Blake has been running the behind-the-scenes aspects of the club for years.

Mayor Vincent Gray: Though he wasn’t in office when gay marriage became legal in D.C., Mayor Gray has been vocal about his support of same-sex unions. He appeared at last year’s parade to encourage Maryland voters to pass a referendum that ultimately protected gay marriage in our neighboring state.

D.C. Kings Founder Ken Vegas/Kendra Kuliga: Kuliga founded the D.C. Kings in 2000, bringing drag kings (women who perform onstage as men) to Washington. Performing as Ken Vegas, Kuliga began grooming a small group of kings at early (and wild) parties at the now-defunct Dupont Circle club Chaos and produced the first Great Big International Drag King Show in 2001 at the Black Cat.

Capital Pride “Hero” Ed Bailey: Each year, Capital Pride honors community “heroes,” and one of 2013’s honorees is Ed Bailey. As a DJ at the legendary Tracks nightclub in the ’90s, a DJ at the long-running Velvet Nation party and now a co-owner of Town Danceboutique, Bailey has helped make the city’s club scene shine. He also works with local organizations to promote awareness about crystal meth abuse.

Choose Your Own Pride Adventure!

First Timer? Want to dip your toe into the festivities, but not ready to get drenched by a Super Soaker-wielding man wearing only underpants at the parade? Hit Brightest Young Things’ Friday night “Spandex” Pride kickoff party, a bash at the former Wonder Bread Factory featuring Baltimore rapper/dancer Rye Rye, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alum Sharon Needles and a suggested superhero dress code. Wonder Bread Factory, 641 S St. NW; Fri., 9 p.m., $25; Spandex.eventbrite.com.

Could You Possibly Need More Drag Queens? All hail RuPaul for bringing drag far enough into the mainstream that cream-of-the-“Drag Race”-crop performers are recognized as legit stars. This season’s finalists (Alaska Thunder[expletive], Roxxxy Andrews and winner Jinkx Monsoon) headline Town’s usual weekend drag show to celebrate Pride. Town Danceboutique, 2009 Eighth St. NW; Sat., 10 p.m., $20; 202-234-8696, Towndc.com. (U Street)

Can’t Deal With the Parade? We understand if you’re seeking a calmer alternative. Sunday’s Capital Pride Street Festival offers more space, food and family-oriented fun — including a 30-foot waterslide, a misting tent to keep kids cool and a demo by the D.C. Roller Girls. There will also be live musical performances by Swedish DJ duo Icona Pop, above; British singer/rapper Cher Lloyd; and Scottish soul singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé. Pennsylvania Avenue between Third and Seventh streets NW; noon-7 p.m., free; Capitalpride.org.

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Vicky Hallett · June 7, 2013