Event planners step up for Pride Weekend in Atlanta

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Pride is so close we can just taste it. After sad news about the festival and parade, now a plethora of people are ready to step in and step up for a big weekend of big plans that keep safety in mind.

Psyching you up for Oct. 6-10 are some of the individuals, organizers, promoters and entertainers that LGBTQ Atlanta counts on all year. The city’s most reliable gay and allied venues are also ready to make sure they do more than their part.

“Everyone was excited more so this year than the past years since Pride was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic,” said James Nelson, owner of X Midtown, overlooking the Rainbow Crosswalk at 10th Street and Piedmont Ave.

“Everyone needs and deserves this social event,” he added. “I have spoken to most business owners, promoters and venues we are all moving forward as planned.”

That tracks with the bars down the road at Ansley, said Jay “Mother” Malloy at The Hideaway.

“This year is so important to let the community know that Pride is alive, and Pride is all around us,” Malloy told Q. “Saying ‘Pride is cancelled’ was a powerful message. It was in that moment that I said we need to do something to unite the community, but in a way that each person feels comfortable with.”

To that end, Malloy grabbed his Ansley Mall and Ansley II neighbors from Woofs, Guac y Margys, Midtown Moon, Felix’s and Oscar’s. Together, a “Pride Unity” of events go down under the slogan “Pride is All Around Us,” he said.

“Atlanta is open, hotels are open, restaurants are open, and the bars are open,” Malloy continued. “Smaller gatherings are happening, too. We have been doing this through 2020 with safety in mind, why not do it for Pride Weekend?

Safety was a keyword for Heretic, too, when owners laid out its Pride plans after the festival and parade went away for this year. The club requires vaccinations or recent tests for entry.

“No matter if you agree or disagree with the decision made by Atlanta Pride, you know it was a tough one,” said Alan Collins, general manager at Heretic. “The community really needs a celebration right now.  2020 was hard for everyone, and we hope to help some folks blow off a little steam in as safe as an environment possible.”

Jennifer Maguire, who owns My Sister’s Room with her wife Jami, agreed.

“These times are so important to our mental well-being,” she said. “We are following COVID guidelines and masks will be encouraged.”

My Sister’s Room is Pride Central for women’s events Oct. 6 – 12. (Photo by Russ Bowen-Youngblood)

That Pride Spirit

Plans on tap for the big weekend include Out Night 2.0: Let Your Pride Glow at Georgia Aquarium on Oct. 8, formerly known as the Atlanta Pride Kickoff Party.

“Times are different, and events look a little different, but with the success of our summer Out Night event, it’s time to redeliver the whimsical spectacle that the LGBTQ community has missed so much,” said John Walker, senior manager at Georgia Aquarium.

Kween on the Green, an annual gathering of hundreds in the Piedmont Park Meadow, is also still a go. And there’s a Deep South Disco & Queer Arts Fair on Saturday at gay-owned Georgia Beer Garden. On top of that comes a full slate of special guests and performers from the Wussy crew.

In other words, that “Pride feeling” is alive and well in Atlanta. And it’s critical that every last L, G, B, T and Q keep it that way, Nelson said.

“Pride is a symbol and a celebration of how far we have come,” he told us. “It allows older and younger generations to celebrate together while teaching the younger generations the struggles and the triumphs we’ve had within the LGBTQ community, particularly after the Stonewall riots.”

Likewise, Malloy pointed to the significance of showing newly out people the strength and support of the community. Pride is about the legacy of queer culture, he said.

“Pride is about recognizing the struggle of us, as individuals and as a community, throughout the years past and present,” he said. “If we continue to not recognize Pride year after year, we lose touch with what it means to be Proud of our LGBTQIA heritage. Just think how many newly turned 21-year-olds are out there have yet to experience their first Pride?”

For the Maguires, it’s all about one precious resource: love.

“It is also a time for our community to come together in love, friendship and acceptance,” Jami Maguire said. “So many people in the gay community do not feel accepted in their communities and in their own families.”

“Pride is a time to let them see the thousands of people that are just like them and that we have so many allies,” she added. “Pride reassures them there is nothing wrong with them – you are loved and perfect just the way you are.”

Connecting that thread is imprtant, and a DYI Pride without a committee this year fits well into our history, Malloy continued.

“Our community has always been grassroots,” he said. “We are a diverse community with many generations who have gone from not being accepted or acknowledged to gaining freedom and rights as people.

“The celebration we seek is uniting us though our rich history of struggles, but also our success,” Malloy added.

The Hideaway is organizing several Ansley-area businesses to promote Pride Weekend 2021 ‘Pride is All Around Us.’ (Photo by Russ Bowen-Youngblood)

Cacophony of Big Plans

Pride at X Midtown lives up to its go-big reputation from Prides past, but with extra umph for 2021. It includes the bar’s legendary Pride Block Party on Sunday Oct. 10, featuring circuit legend DJ Chris Cox and Grammy winning producer Dave Aude.

“We have chosen entertainers that have not been to Atlanta before,” Nelson said. “For me, Derrick Barry is the most exciting, but they are all creating buzz.”

Britney-look alike and RuPaul alum Barry performs during the House of Legends show on Friday night. Saturday brings international mix master DJ Escape as well as RuGirl Kameron Michaels.

For ATL Unity Pride at Ansley, plans are percolating for big fun. Look for tea dances, patio parties and amped up editions of some favorite events at the participating venues.

“We have the ability to do outdoor activities and indoor activities, so it’s going to be great,” Malloy said.

Heretic starts its weekend early with Country Pride on Thursday. DJ Dan Slater spins on Friday, and Brazilian stud Dani Brasil spins on Saturday. That’s not all. The Perry Twins do the decks on Sunday night until 3 a.m.

“We’ll be hosting two amazing events outdoors in addition to regular nighttime line up,” Collins said.

Queen Butch Pride Tea is Saturday afternoon at Heretic with Todd Terry, Ree de La Vega and William Francis. The Out & Proud Tea Dance on Sunday features a DILF underwear party and DJs James Anthony and Max Bruce.

My Sister’s Room throws down the gauntlet on their event series for women. It starts on Wednesday and goes hard night and day through Sunday. Wednesday finds Taylor Alxndr’s Pride Switch show ft. Lucy Stoole, and Friday is the Pride Glow Party with the Hellfire Harlots, Wet For Her, Drew Friday, Coco Iman and four DJs. Pride Sunday includes Pride Brunch and live performances well into the night. That’s just the beginning at MSR.

“We have a large outside and inside venue with a stage, silent disco, a drag show and other performers,” the Maguires said. “So people can stay outside if they so desire, and we have outdoor bathrooms and an outdoor bar.”

And the future of Pride in Atlanta of course includes Pride at Future Atlanta. The city’s newest gay nightspot booked Phoenix’s RuPride Cabarets with Kylie Sonique Love and Kandy Muse for Pride Friday and Saturday. The club also wants to be your go-to for international DJs both afterhours and in primetime. Future requires full vaccination or a negative COVID test for all guests.

All of the Pride planners we talked to said Atlanta can, will and must do Pride Weekend up right.

“If anyone was on the fence, I would pull out my phone and show them the videos of our annual Pride Block Party over the past eight years,” Nelson said. “I would just ask everyone throughout the country and abroad to continue with your plans, come to Atlanta for Pride, support all of the businesses and events, and most importantly, have fun and stay safe.”

Catch the spirit, said Malloy.

“Let’s get the message out there that on Pride Weekend you will have a place to go and be who you are, with others who are like you and support you,” he said. “Come on out, Atlanta. Pride is really is all around us.”

For their latest Pride plans as well as events to gear you up in the weeks ahead, visit Georgia AquariumMy Sister’s Room, The Hideaway, X Midtown, Heretic, Wussy, Georgia Beer Garden and Future.

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