A Gay Old Time

Pride Fest welcomes the GLBT community -- and everyone else, too

Summer is the traditional season for fests. There are occasional outbursts of festivities during other seasons -- Oktober and Mai come to mind, and we'll tip our hats (and bend an elbow) to a good Strassen any day. But the real fests, the ones that leave you exhilarated and sunburned and incapable of reporting to work the next day, always happen in the summer, when clothing is in scant supply and frivolity runs so high that it crosses over into gaiety.

And of all the summer fests, only one has cornered the market on gaiety: Pride Fest. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the St. Louis Pride Fest allows our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities to get together and get down. It also allows the "straight" St. Louis community to see just how large and vibrant this GLBT population is. And, regardless of sexual affiliation, Pride Fest is traditionally one of the better weekend-long parties in the long, hot St. Louis summer.

The party begins Friday, June 25, at 9 p.m. at Club Candela (326 South 21st Street) with Spectrum 5, a dance party featuring a lengthy roster of national and local DJs, including DJ Polywog, Cypher, Beezwaks and Manhunter. Tickets are $10 and are available at CheapTRX (3211 South Grand Avenue; 314-664-4011) or at the door. All proceeds from Spectrum 5 are donated to Pride St. Louis and the AIDS Foundation. Ah, charity begins on the dance floor.

Pride Fest hits the streets on Saturday, June 26, at Tower Grove Park (Arsenal Street and Grand Boulevard). From 12:45 (that's a queer start time) to 8 p.m., wave after wave of performers appear on the main stage, which is built along the main road that runs east-west through the park. Saturday's featured performers include local bands Missile Silo Suite, Maxtone Four and Hot House Sessions; the sinuous moves of Belly Dance Mirage; and lesbian-and-proud-of-it comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer. Sunday brings the traditional Pride Parade (at 12:45 p.m.), which may be the best parade you'll see in St. Louis all year, as drag kings and queens, dance squads, whimsical floats and marching bands strut their stuff. Sunday also has eight hours of live entertainment, including both the Men's Chorus and Charis, the women's chorus. (For the full schedule, visit www.pridestl.org.)

Pride Fest is not just about being out and about, though; the festival originated as a way to commemorate the Stonewall riots, and despite cultural advances made by the GLBT community in the ensuing 35 years, there are still plenty of fights left to win. The impending vote on a Missouri constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages has spurred the organizers of Pride Fest to arrange a mass commitment ceremony at 4:35 p.m. on Saturday. Scott Emanuel, the project coordinator for the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri who is working with the Constitution Defense League, will be among those working Pride Fest to raise awareness of this issue and to encourage people to vote. "Same-sex marriage is already illegal in Missouri," he notes. The danger of the proposed amendment, according to Emanuel, is that it marks "the first time that a community has been singled out in our Constitution for discrimination. This codifies our Constitution, so it makes it harder to undo this if we ever do want to vote on civil unions."

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