Deborah Cox performs at Baltimore Pride 2011. (Handout photo, Handout…)
Gay Pride festivals are in season.
Washington's Capital Pride was last weekend, and so was Philadelphia's. Chesapeake Pride is coming up in mid-July at Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds. But this weekend, it's time for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Baltimoreans to celebrate.
The Baltimore Pride festival, which officially kicks off Friday and ends Sunday, includes an opening garden party, a performance by Deborah Cox, a block party, a high-heel race and the annual parade. (An hour and a half away, Lancaster, Pa., will throw its own celebration on Saturday.)
The festival is said to draw about 30,000 people every year, and organizers date its beginnings to 1976. Indisputably, it is the largest such event in the state.
Baltimoreans got a preview of their own pride last Friday, when many drove to Washington for a dance party at Washington's Newseum thrown by the nightlife website Brightest Young Things. There was a local tie-in: the great DJ Ultra Nate was spinning.
The Newseum, stately and slick on a regular basis, was overflowing with rainbow-clad dancers and ended up covered in glitter.
The main entrance lobby might have been the main drag — that's where Ultra and other DJs were — but no floors were off-limits, so that there were even some guys in muscle tank tops playing anchormen on the interactive newsroom exhibit.
Baltimore Pride will also kick off at a museum, though it will be decidedly more low-key. The Baltimore Museum of Art's terrace and sculpture garden will host what organizers are billing as "an upscale garden party," which is code for: keep the glitter and glow sticks at home. Alex Funk, a DJ and columnist for newspaper Gaylife, is spinning.
The three-day festival's main events, though, have been reserved for Saturday's annual block party, featuring at least 18 DJs and performers. Some are drag queens at Club Hippo, but others are from out of town, including Odd Girl Out, a five-member Silver Spring all-girl group, and New Yorker Sariah, who scored a top 50 song last year in the Billboard dance/club chart.
The boldest name on the lineup is Deborah Cox, whose best-selling album, "One Wish," was released in 1998.
The headliner might be somewhat past her prime, but pride festivals are hardly ever about the music. They're more about visibility, acceptance and community. The highlight, as always, will be the parade.
Baltimore Pride starts at 7 p.m. Friday at Gertrude's restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art, 10 Art Museum Drive. The parade begins at 4 p.m. Saturday on Charles Street, between Center and Chase. A block party on Charles and Eager streets follows at 6 p.m.