The Atlanta Pride Festival. Image courtesy of ATL Pride.
The Atlanta Pride Festival kicks off this evening. This is the city’s 48th annual event celebrating the culture, heritage and hard-fought freedoms of the LGBTQ community.
“On pride weekend, the two biggest events are the festival and the parade,” Pride Executive Director Jamie Fergerson told Atlanta Loop. “The parade is the city’s largest, with 270 different elements and 5500 people in the parade including local politicians, nonprofit groups and corporations.” The parade starts Sunday at noon. Assembly begins at 9:30 at the Civic Center MARTA station, and proceeds down Peachtree Street to the Charles Allen Gate of Piedmont Park.
The festival, held in the park’s meadow, boasts over 250 vendors and 3 different stages for cabarets, variety shows, comedy and music. To see a full list of events, download the Pride Guide here. “We have a ton of new programming this year that we’re really excited to have,” Fergerson said.
One new feature of the festival added this year is the Artists Market. Fergerson is excited about the new addition, as its allowing emerging local artists a platform on which to offer their work to a large audience.
“It’s expensive for independent small artists to buy a booth at a [major] festival,” Fergerson said. “We’ve created a way for artists to come and at no cost share their work so that they can get some exposure and we can bring local artists into the event.”
It’s expected that over 300,000 people will attend the festival throughout the week, with 100,000 per day attending the festival and 80,000 along the parade route. Pride officials encourage parade and festival attendees to rideshare, take MARTA or ride their bikes. “Parking is always our biggest issue,” Fergerson cautions.
The Pride Festival was first celebrated in Atlanta in 1970, and commemorated the one year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising in New York City, where members of the gay community violently fought back against police during an early morning raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The uprising is widely viewed as one of the most important events leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern struggle for LGBTQ rights. The first Pride march was held in Atlanta the following year.
“For the community and for allies, Pride is a historic safe space. This is a space where we can come together, celebrate our identities, talk about our history, talk about the social justice struggles we’re still facing.” Fergerson says. “Pride is a way that we build community.”