For the first time since 2019, in-person Pride celebrations are back in force throughout the area. The 47-year-old Capital Pride is the biggest event on the calendar, expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people for Saturday’s parade from Shaw to Dupont Circle and the Sunday festival and concert that fill Pennsylvania Avenue. There’s late-night clubbing, drag brunches, pool parties and tea dances.
But look carefully at events across the area, and you’ll notice that a different audience is becoming increasingly visible. You can find Pride events targeted at families from Glen Echo Park to Reston and Annapolis to Alexandria. They include all the amenities you’d expect at a family festival: There are carousel rides, crafts, story time and music. But a drag queen is reading to the kids, and the hands-on activities include making rainbow flag patches.
When Darren Vance and his husband adopted their son 17 years ago, “we just did not have a lot of resources and connections with other LGBT parents,” he says. They turned to Rainbow Families, a support group for LGBTQ families, “primarily as a way to connect with other parents and find out opportunities for our son to be around other families like ours.” Four years ago, Vance became the executive director of the program.
Rainbow Families has long had a presence at Pride, Vance says, both marching in the parade — “it’s always been a really emotional, powerful experience to walk that parade route and have so many people cheer,” he says — and hosting a booth with board games and snacks at the festival the next day. But this year, with families having been isolated for so long, “we decided to really double down” by hosting an in-person Family Fun Festival after the parade for the first time. Rainbow Families expects about 300 people to show up at Stead Park for activities including a bubble zone, face painting and a cooking demonstration from D.C. Central Kitchen. “The beauty of it is that no one needs to stay for the entire time,” Vance says. “They can come and relax, get some lemonade, play a couple of board games … and move on to other things as part of the festivities.”
Vance says Rainbow Families is involved at events across the region, and in recent years, he’s noticed an increasingly welcoming attitude toward parents and families. Vance points to the Reston Pride, held last weekend, as an example: “It is a dry Pride, and their sole intention in that has been specifically to make it super family-friendly.” Glen Echo Park debuted its Family Pride celebration in 2019; this year it is being billed as the “second annual” event. This growing inclusiveness is an acknowledgment that families are as much a part of Pride as nightclubs and parties. Vance sees it as an opportunity to celebrate “all of the wonderful intersectionality of the queer community, and familyhood is being recognized as a very integral and equal part of that intersectionality.”
That is very much on display at As You Are, an LGBTQ space that opened on Barracks Row in March and serves as a cafe during the day and a bar in the evenings. “We really wanted to offer the entire community a safe space and learn from each other and hang out, and we’re really seeing a lot of that happening,” says Rach “Coach” Pike, who opened As You Are with partner Jo McDaniel. One of their first Saturday-afternoon regulars was a 3-year-old named Elliot who visits As You Are after soccer practice. “We have a changing table in the bathroom,” says Pike. “Underneath graffiti from Sharpies, which we give people,” McDaniel adds. The exterior is decorated with a Pride flag large enough to be seen from blocks away.
During the day, the downstairs space is a bright, all-ages coffee shop, with customers chatting and tapping away on their laptops, while Fridays and Saturdays bring DJs to the upstairs space. (Fridays are 18 and over on the dance floor, and Saturdays are 21 and over.) During Pride, events include a book reading, spoken word, DJs, and a combination drag show and tea dance.
As the number of events for families and younger members of the community grows during Pride, As You Are’s owners recognize the need for welcoming spaces for queer youth year round. “I had one mom come in on a Saturday afternoon with a couple of 14-year-olds and was like, ‘Can they come in on their own?’” Pike recalls. “And I said, ‘Absolutely.’”
Pride Family Day at Glen Echo: The historic Dentzel Carousel is at the center of Glen Echo Park’s family celebration, with free rides on the hares, ostriches and horses until tickets run out, as well as carousel-themed craft activity bags. Snack on free food and root beer, venture through an interactive chalk maze or just play on the playground. Discounted tickets are available for the Puppet Co.’s 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. performances of “Little Red Riding Hood and the 3 Little Pigs.” 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. glenechopark.org. Free; registration requested.
Pride on the Pier at the Wharf: A fireworks display caps the Wharf’s third annual Pride festival, sponsored by the Washington Blade and LURe. The waterfront event features an afternoon of DJs, dancing and other activities, including outdoor roller skating for all ages at the designated Family Zone on the Transit Pier. Fireworks begin at 9 p.m. 2 to 9 p.m. prideonthepierdc.com/family. Free. Skate rentals are $10 for children; adults must bring their own skates.
Capital Pride Post-Parade Family Fun Area: Taking the kids to watch or march in the Pride Parade? There’s a special after-party just for them. Rainbow Families D.C., an organization supporting LGBTQ parents and children, has teamed up with Homeless Children’s Playtime Project and Friends of Stead Park for a post-parade event at the Dupont Circle playground. Activities include drag queen story time with Venus Valhalla, arts and crafts, face painting, bubbles and a cooking demonstration with D.C. Central Kitchen. 3 to 7 p.m. rainbowfamiliesdc.org. Free; registration required.
June 11, 12 and 14
Pride Nights at the Washington Spirit, Washington Mystics and Washington Nationals: It’s a busy week for local sports fans, with three professional teams joining in the Pride celebrations. First of the trio is the Washington Spirit, holding the first of this season’s two Pride events at Segra Field in Leesburg on June 11 as the team takes on the North Carolina Courage at 7 p.m. Fans receive a free Pride sticker at the gate. The Spirit’s second Pride match, scheduled for Sept. 10, takes place at Audi Field. The Mystics hold their Pride Night against the Phoenix Mercury on June 12 at 6 p.m. The team’s Pride page is full of resources, such as Pride Month Reads, a selection of biographies and autobiographies (including Elena Delle Donne’s) that can be checked out of the public library and self-guided walking tours of D.C. LGBTQ sites. The Nationals celebrate the team’s Night Out against the Braves on June 14 at 7:05 p.m. Special tickets include a Pride T-shirt and a donation to LGBTQ sports organization Team D.C. Show a ticket to the game at Dacha across Potomac Avenue SE for a free beer. washingtonspirit.com, washingtonmystics.com and nationals.com.
Takoma Pride: This year’s Takoma Pride theme is “Just Say Gay,” which Old Takoma Business Association Executive Director Laura Barclay says resonates with community members because of the recent legislation in Florida restricting LGBTQ discussion, commonly called the “Don’t Say Gay” law. “We chose activities that will celebrate the LGBTQ members of our community, share a message and also provide an outlet for kids and families to do the same,” Barclay wrote in an email. Takoma Park’s “simple, yet colorful, celebration on Laurel Avenue” includes drag queen story time at 11 a.m. with Ms. Citrine, face painting from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., a rainbow crosswalk and plenty of chalk to add your own bit of Pride to the sidewalk. Historic Takoma will have a table highlighting local LGBTQ history, and Montgomery County Council member Evan Glass’s office will share LGBTQ+ resources with residents. Participating businesses are giving discounts or goodies to Pride-goers, too. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. mainstreettakoma.org. Free.
Capital Candy Jar fundraiser: While Capital Candy Jar owner Dave Burton doesn’t think of Pride as a candy-giving holiday, his customers have made him reconsider. “Last year was the first year we really tried making Pride candy, and they did so well we added a second Pride candy this year,” he says. The top-selling chocolate-covered Oreos come in Pride-themed versions, adorned with rainbow sprinkles or a rainbow flag. This year’s addition to the growing Pride collection is a candied popcorn, which comes in various fruit flavors and is rainbow-colored. The fundraising shopping event at the Hill East shop benefits Safe Space NOVA, which provides queer-focused support and social groups for LGBTQ youth. Patrons who mention the organization will get 5 percent off their transaction, and 25 percent of the proceeds will go to the Northern Virginia group. 2 to 7 p.m. capitalcandyjar.com. Prices vary.
Drag Queen Storytime at Unity Park: Drag queens are known for their showmanship and character, two things crucial for good storytelling. Drag queen story times are used to excite children about reading and introduce themes of self-love, inclusion and acceptance. “Each book has a positive message,” according to Kristen Barden, executive director of the Adams Morgan Partnership Business Improvement District, which co-hosts this monthly event with the D.C. Public Library and the Line Hotel. Different queens read each month, and June’s star is Shear Queer: “Seeing these younger parents advocate for a loving and judgment-free space to imagine and hear stories is both radically punk and so incredibly wholesome,” the local hairstylist says. “Drag is rooted in imagination and creativity, so it’s truly a wonderful pairing.” Listeners and their families should bring blankets or chairs to sit on and dress for the weather. As this is an outdoor event, it can be postponed or moved due to poor weather. For day-of updates, check out the social media pages of the Adams Morgan BID and the D.C. Public Library’s social media pages. 11 a.m. admodc.org/storytime. Free.
Montgomery County Pride in the Plaza Festival: The day-long celebration on Veterans Plaza in Silver Spring features a bilingual drag queen story hour; the finale of the local Drag Duels lip-syncing competition, which has seen area drag queens going head to head since early April; and the epic Pride in the Plaza Mini-Ball, which allows anyone to get up on the catwalk to vogue and strut their stuff. A full week of activities leads up to the festival, including an outdoor screening of “Saturday Church”; the Pride on the Field game day; a youth picnic; outdoor yoga; and a Pride on the Page talk with Eric Nguyen, author of “Things We Lost to the Water,” sponsored by Loyalty Bookstore. Noon to 8 p.m. prideintheplaza.com. Free.
Growing Pride at the Garden: Eighteen makers will show off their jewelry, candles, needlepoint and other wares at this Alexandria event space’s day-long Pride event. There’s also crafting for children with UpCycle, an arts center focusing on recycled materials; live music; food trucks; and free climbing at the neighboring Sportrock gym. Noon to 5 p.m. thegarden.net. Free; registration requested.
Loudoun Pride at Claude Moore Park: Loudoun Pride bills itself as the “biggest, boldest and most colorful Pride festival in Northern Virginia.” Younger kids can enjoy such activities as bounce houses, face painting, balloon animals and a scavenger hunt, while older kids can pick up a book and step into the shade in an LGBTQ reading tent, relax with guided group yoga or make some Pride buttons. There are also plenty of photo opportunities, such as posing in front of the Loudoun Pride sign, which is almost 50 feet long and 4 feet tall. Those who need to heal their inner child, or just need a hug, can enjoy “mom hugs.” (As the Loudoun Pride website says, “Sometimes we just need a hug and nothing beats a mom hug! These moms know that you are loved.”) Proceeds go to the Equality in Education Program & Loudoun LGBTQ+ Defense Fund, which provides LGBTQ programming and students with funding to support diversity and equality in Loudoun County. 1 to 8 p.m. eqloco.com. $5-$7.50; free for children 3 or younger.