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|Ga. cities gear up for September LGBT Pride events|
|Written by Ryan Watkins|
|Friday, 30 August 2013 13:33|
Although none are as big as Labor Day Weekend’s Black Gay Pride or Atlanta Pride in October, organizers say they offer an important opportunity for local communities to connect and be visible.
“It gets everybody involved in their local community,” said Raynae Jones, executive director of South Georgia Pride, which takes place Sept. 21 in Valdosta. “It lets families see other families like them. It's good for those kids to see other families like their own. People might not think we're here, but we are. It's great to have that one day of visibility.”
Atlanta-based LGBT organizations agree. There is an enormous grassroots benefit in attending smaller Prides throughout the state, Georgia Equality Field Organizer Em Elliot said in an interview during last year’s South Georgia Pride.
“Being present in these celebrations is not only helpful to our mission as a statewide organization, it also keeps us connected with the LGBT community in Georgia at large,” Elliot said. “You get a different, more realistic perspective of the movement by going outside of Atlanta and working with people and advocates where they are in their communities.”
The third annual Athens Pride Weekend kicks off Sept. 12 and runs through Sept. 15 in the Classic City.
Though a yearly gay picnic had been held in Athens since 1998, the weekend took its current form of a weekend-spanning festival in 2010.
Athens Pride begins with the GLOBES reception and silent auction at the UGA Special Collections Library Thursday night with the official kickoff party following at Georgia Bar.
Friday's events include a Happy Hour gathering at World Famous and Dragaoke at Max later in the evening. Saturday features a youth event, a meet-and-greet get-together for lesbian and bisexual women and an artist showcase, promoting local artists, poets, musicians and performers.
Sunday, attendees will gather at Lay Park for an afternoon community fair, commitment ceremony and cookout. The weekend concludes with the now annual Athens Showgirl Cabaret Closing Drag Show, which moves to Lay Park for 2013.
Savannah celebrates Pride the same weekend as Athens. The city’s festival kicks off Sept. 14 in Savannah's historic Forsyth Park. Last year's event was pestered by an afternoon of rain, but as many as 10,000 festival-goers attended the pride gathering, according to organizers.
Savannah's gay-friendly Mayor Edna Jackson kicks off the afternoon with a welcome speech.
Several events are planned leading up to the festival, like the Miss Savannah Pride Pageant at Club One and the annual Savannah Pride White Party. Both events are on Thursday, Sept. 12.
“With over 10 years of celebration, awareness, and unity, Savannah Pride’s mission of unity through diversity, and social awareness has helped promote the well-being of the LGBT community in the South,” leaders stated on the festival website.
South Georgia Pride
The weekend after Athens and Savannah’s Pride celebrations, Valdosta is home to the fourth annual South Georgia Pride.
Last year’s festival drew an estimated 1,200 attendees, but the event was not without a shade of controversy. Valdosta Mayor John Gayle refused to sign a proclamation recognizing the day over religious convictions, but the festival went on as planned in the city's John W. Saunders Park.
Despite the contention between organizers and the mayor's office, last year's event was the most successful to date for event organizers.
For 2013, old and new performers will take the stage at Valdosta's Pride. Drag King Spikey Van Dykey returns for a second consecutive year, while new talent, including “RuPaul's Drag Race” contestant Stacy Layne Matthews (season 3), all-girl band She-N-She, singer-songwriter Kym Berry, The Ladies of Glo, The Sudden Impact Cloggers and others join the entertainment lineup.
This year's festival theme is “Pride Without Limits” and is meant to celebrate recent progress made in the LGBT rights struggle, according to festival organizers. In addition to an expanded children's area, the afternoon will also feature a bevy of guest speakers.
Attendance has doubled each year since the event's inception. This year, organizers are hoping for more than 2,000 attendees.
“We have a billboard and we're running advertisements,” Jones said. “Hopefully word gets out.”
Chattahoochee Valley Pride
Georgia’s string of September Pride festivities wraps up on Sept. 28, when Chattahoochee Valley Pride returns to Columbus.
Formerly known as Columbus Pride, the annual Chattahoochee Valley Pride festival underwent a name change in 2006 to better reflect the local LGBT community, according to event organizers.
This year's festival again takes place Sept. 28 at Columbus' Flat Rock Park.
The goal of the annual event, according to the Chattahoochee Valley Pride website, is “to empower the 'LGBT' community as a whole. To look beyond race or culture and provide the tools needed to elevate the 'LBGT' community to a 'socially' accepted status. A status that will encourage 'society' as a whole to look beyond our 'sexual orientation' and view us as we should be as 'human beings' first and foremost.
As of press time, CVP had not yet released a schedule of events for its upcoming festival. See the organization's website for more details.
Photo: Savannah Pride, one of the biggest such celebrations in Georgia outside of Atlanta, drew a crowd of 10,000 in 2012 despite rain. (Photo by Chris Seely)
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