Under the warm, clear sky of a beautiful Sunday in Charlottesville, locals gathered to celebrate queer pride in a street fair at IX Art Park. As soon as the celebration started, people began pouring in to see the art exhibitions and take part in supporting the local LGBTQ+ community.
One of the events that drew the most attention was the drag show that began at noon. As soon as the first queen, Bebe Gunn, passionately danced out to the stage, everyone watching was hooked. Despite the heat the heavy outfits must have created, the queens put on a flamboyant, crowd-pleasing show that had many festival attendees giving out tips to dancers who entered the audience.
After the drag show, several music acts took the stage, along with a DJ to end the event. The performances brought together people of all ages to enjoy the music and celebrate a day of expressing pride through art.
The space hosted multiple businesses that showed their support for the local community, many of them selling merchandise with every kind of pride flag the mind can conceive of. Tie-dye shirts were everywhere and attendees could purchase clothes in many alternative styles. Local businesses, religious groups and plenty of food trucks were all also present, and even political action groups such as the local Democratic Party and abortion funds set up tents.
Throughout the day, the space was filled with expressive fashion. Many people dawned pride flags as capes, wore colorful rainbow suspenders and flaunted flashy jewelry. Many attendees and performers alike did not hold back using the loudest and proudest part of their wardrobe. At every angle viewing the event, the outfits were stylish and filled with personality.
In an indoor area, attendees could enjoy a drink at a bar while multiple queer films were shown for free. Most were short films or documentaries chronicling LGBTQ+ experiences, whose titles included “Journey Through Gender,” “Passing” and “To Be A Man.” This quieter indoor space also featured a walk-through art exhibit that stretched throughout the building, which included a variety of different multi-sensory art pieces to walk through and interact with. Everywhere at the park, the atmosphere was light, friendly and filled with chatter.
An essential aspect of the event’s ability to facilitate artistic freedom came from the support present for the LGBTQ+ community. Many of the organizations that came to support the Charlottesville Pride Street Fair focus on creating more loving environments at home.
Sarah Jackson represented PFLAG Blue Ridge — a support group for LGBTQ+ individuals and their friends or family members — and explained that her involvement stems from personal experience.
“I personally joined because my child is trans, and I wanted to make sure as a parent that I was helping them through this journey safely — emotionally and physically,” Jackson said. “So [the support group] has helped my family a lot.”
The University’s LGBTQ+ Centern also tabled outside at the park. Alex Winkowski, a full-time employee at the center, noted that the street fair provided a valuable opportunity to expand the Center’s reach outside of the University’s student community.
“We’ve been a part of the C’ville Pride Festival every year since I’ve been here, except during COVID,” Winkowski said. “I think it’s important that, when we have merch and [when] we have ways, to spread love outside of just the U.Va. circle. It’s an opportunity to just come out and show support for the broader community.”
Similar sentiments for showing support reverberated throughout the colorful environment IX Art Park and Charlottesville Pride created. In a time where the acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals is under threat in Virginia, local organizations came together to support queer art and the Charlottesville community at large, providing a space for a diverse crowd of LGBTQ+ people and allies to celebrate their identities.