Last year, the parade drew in over 100,000 attendees. McCain said the organization expects to see similar numbers this year and predicted a total 300,000 festival attendees over the entire weekend.
The festival also draws in community partners who march in the Sunday parade and table in the Saturday market. The Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity will host a Friday night service ahead of the busy weekend.
SOJOURN Executive Director Rebecca Stapel-Wax said this year’s festival theme connects with the Jewish saying: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”
She expressed the need for faith communities to display their support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Atlanta Pride is “one of the highlights to our year because bringing people together in a celebratory manner is so nourishing and the visibility makes such a difference to the people on the sidelines as well as to the people who are participating,” Stapel-Wax said.
APC Director of Equity and Engagement Steven Igarashi-Ball and other judges recently selected 10 up-and-coming drag performers to participate in the festival’s Shooting Stars Cabaret.
“I was really blown away by the caliber of talent of all of the performers, and so it was a very difficult decision,” Igarashi-Ball said.
The Shooting Stars Cabaret is one of two drag performances that will close out the festival in Piedmont Park on Sunday. The other performance, the Starlight Cabaret, consists of more experienced drag performers and is currently open for applications.
APC is also putting out a call for volunteers to ensure the festival runs smoothly. Volunteer Committee Chair Justin Gavette said that 200 volunteers have already signed up, although they are hoping to double that number by the Sept. 30 deadline.
Gavette has been a member of APC since 2009 after moving from Phoenix, Ariz. He said the organization “filled a space” in his life, fueling his desire to spread the experience to others through his role coordinating the volunteer effort.
“It’s very important for me, and it resonates for me because as an older gay male I remember what it was like when I was 17 years old and I wasn’t out yet and I didn’t really have that support system,” Gavette said. “So volunteering my time with Atlanta Pride, I like to use that not only as helping the organization but also connecting with our attendees and making sure that they have the best possible environment and the best possible time that they can have at the event.”
As the largest completely-free pride festival in the U.S., McCain emphasized the organization’s call for donations, in addition to the continued volunteer recruitment effort.
“We rely on the support of our community, from corporate sponsors as well as donors and individual supporters, contributing to keep pride free and to keep it to be the diverse, inclusive expression of our community that we all so cherish,” McCain said.