Pride Festival marks 39 years

Next weekend many Atlantans will suit up in their best costumes and strut around town in celebration. There will be concerts, vendors and a parade. Sure, a lot of this celebrating will be part of countless Halloween parties and other events. But another group of Atlantans will celebrate more than autumnal tradition.

The 39th annual Atlanta Pride Festival will descend upon the Piedmont Park area, giving Atlanta’s gay community a weekend of its own to celebrate its sexuality and lifestyle with a little more abandon than some of its members might normally have. And while Atlanta is considered a gay-friendly town throughout the year, once Pride begins there will be even more rainbow flags and fun than usual.

So while heterosexuals (who are also welcome at Pride’s all-inclusive festivities) might be dressing as monsters, sexy nurses and in other Halloween garb next weekend, the drag queens and other revelers in Piedmont Park may not necessarily be wearing things they wouldn’t wear any other weekend.

They’ll just be doing it with a little more pride than usual.

With a week left to get ready for all the fun, here’s a look at what this year’s Pride Festival has to offer.

Pride previews

Every Wednesday in September and October local bars and restaurants have participated in events to help get the Pride party started a little early. The Stride Into Pride bar crawl has taken place at gay-friendly bars such as Woofs, the Heretic and Blake’s on the Park, with each week representing a different color of the rainbow flag. The final event takes place at Jungle off Cheshire Bridge Road on Wednesday, with purple being the color of choice.

Running concurrently since Oct. 7, Dine Out With Pride has taken place at HomeGrown restaurants including Stella and Osteria 832. With 15 percent of lunch and dinner sales going to Atlanta Pride, there’s one more chance at Doc Chey’s in Virginia-Highland on Wednesday.

Pride kickoff party

The night before the official festivities begin, the Georgia Aquarium will host an after-hours Pride preview party. For $17 in advance or $20 at the door, festival-goers can take in the sights of the aquarium without the regular crowds and sip on cocktails from cash bars. Circuit favorite Martin Fry will also be spinning high-energy dance tunes throughout the night. The party is set for 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Oct. 30.

The festival

The main attractions of this year’s Pride Festival take place Oct. 31-Nov. 1 in Piedmont Park. From commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples to a festival market with dozens of vendors selling arts, clothing and other wares, you’re likely to find something of interest.

Two stages of music each day feature a variety of acts, including New York lesbian rap act God-Des and She, local folk favorite Sonia Leigh and power pop quintet Flat Cat on Oct. 31, as well as indie-rock band Doubting Thomas, alterna-rock act Citizen Icon and beatboxing “American Idol” alum Blake Lewis on Nov. 1.

Rounding out the festivities will be poetry readings, Youth Pride entertainment and the annual Starlight Cabaret burlesque show.

Club Pride

This first-time Pride event takes place from 3 to 10:30 p.m. Oct. 31 in the Greystone Poolhouse at Piedmont Park. The costume party allows revelers to dance the day and night away in Halloweenish Pride style. International DJ Paulo will headline with an opening set by DJ Jay McCracken.

Tickets are $35 and available at Boy Next Door and Gravity Fitness.

The parade

Like many festivals, the Pride parade is one of the major attractions of the weekend. Beginning at 1 p.m. Nov. 1 at the intersection of Ralph McGill and West Peachtree, it travels up Peachtree Street and ends at Piedmont Park. Presided over by Grand Marshals Dani Lee Harris of the Atlanta Police Department and Pastor Chris Glaser of the Virginia-Highland Church, the parade includes a plethora of pro-gay groups, businesses and organizations. From bookstores, bars, political groups and Atlanta Rollergirls to honorary grand marshals including Richard Ramey and Robby Kelly, co-owners of the Atlanta Eagle, a gay club recently raided by police, the parade is known for including androgyny, activism and an all-around jovial atmosphere.