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Pride Week a gay old time for all ages and sexualities

WANT TO GO?

Gay pride parade and festival

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

WHERE: Haddad Riverfront Park

COST: free

INFO: www.wvpride.org (includes full activity schedule)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rainbow Pride West Virginia's annual Pride Week is here. Since last Friday, Charleston's gay community and their friends have been celebrating with a slate of events including pageants, a 5K-road race, a family picnic and a special edition of drag queen bingo at The Broadway.

This weekend, Pride Week continues with more events, among them a Friday night concert at the LaBelle Theater in South Charleston, a Saturday morning volleyball tournament on Magic Island and a Saturday night dance gala at Atmosphere Ultralounge. There are also Sunday's concluding events at Haddad Riverfront Park, including the Big Gay Dog Show at noon, the Pride Parade at 1:30 p.m. (which runs up Kanawha Boulevard to Capitol Street) and the Pride Festival, which goes until 6 p.m.

But first, there's the Second Annual Charity Drag Race tonight on Capitol Street, adjacent to Davis Park.

Ted Brightwell, public affairs coordinator for Rainbow Pride WV, said it is something not to be missed.

"It's a really great event, and the money for that goes to Manna Meal."

He explained this might not be the drag race some people are used to. The competition is made up of teams of four who run a relay. During each leg of the race, participants have to put on a wig and dress, grab a purse, slip on a pair of high heels and then run from one end of the street to the other, where their teammates are waiting.

The teammates then have to switch out the same dress, wigs, shoes and purse and then race back to complete the relay.

Brightwell said, "It's really, really funny to watch -- and running in high heels isn't easy."

Brightwell would know. The former owner of Visions Day Spa and occasional Light Opera Guild actor is still probably Charleston's best-known female impersonator.

He added, "And they only have certain size shoes. So if they don't fit, that's just too bad."

It's supposed to be fun -- even for the straight people who come out to watch.

Brightwell said that during the 10 years that he's been associated with Pride Week, the event has grown and changed. There's more entertainment and more opportunities to include people from outside the gay community.

"We've gone from having events on the Capitol steps and moving to Davis Park to now we're at Haddad Riverfront Park, which is huge.

He added, "There's a lot more entertainment now and even more vendors. We even have Mardi Gras Casino involved, coming with their big bus, selling beer -- stuff like that. The public is more involved with gay pride, knowing that gay dollars are easily spent."

This year's Pride Week theme is "All Together Now" and really, Brightwell thought that summed up what Pride Week is about.

"We want to bring people together," he said. "We just want to get to the point where Pride week is just a huge celebration of people, but it's all people."

Slowly, but surely, it's getting there. Acceptance has been a slow process, but it's happening.

"The gays are trendy right now," he laughed.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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