This morning brings a sad but necessary announcement; VA Pridefest, originally scheduled for Saturday, September 25 at Brown’s Island, will be postponed until 2022. The decision was not made lightly, but with COVID numbers once again on the rise due to the Delta variant, the organizers felt that it was the right thing to do.
COVID strikes again. Back in the spring, when vaccines were all the rage and numbers were falling rapidly, it felt like we were seeing a light at the end of the tunnel where the pandemic was concerned, and at that time, a lot of plans were made for the summer, the fall, and beyond — when, we assumed, COVID would be mostly behind us. But of course, like the meme says, there was our fall plans, and then there was the Delta variant.
The news out of VA Pride today is another strong indicator that we’re not out of the pandemic woods yet. After missing Pridefest 2020 due to COVID, everyone was excited to get back to Brown’s Island for the biggest LGBTQ Pride celebration in the state. Unfortunately, it is not to be; this morning, VA Pridefest organizers have announced that the 2021 Pridefest, scheduled for Saturday, September 25, will be postponed. They tentatively hope to reschedule for June 2022, in order to coincide with the national LGBTQ Pride Month celebration.
“After consulting with our many corporate sponsors, organizational partners, and volunteers, we have decided it is in the best interest of the health and safety of our community to postpone VA Pridefest 2021 until next year,” said James Millner — program director of Diversity Richmond, of which Virginia Pride is a part — in a statement. “The data available from the Virginia Department of Health shows that cases of COVID-19, positivity, and incidence rates are projected to increase through the end of September when our event was scheduled, and we want to be certain that we are doing our part to help mitigate the spread of the virus.”
Diversity Richmond and VA Pride — which merged earlier this year — began planning for an in-person Pridefest in June, when things relating to the pandemic were still trending in the right direction, and had done quite a bit to ensure that 2021 Pridefest would be a truly great event, on par with some of the best of prior years.
“In a very short period of time, we were able to raise record amounts of money, secure phenomenal entertainment acts, and plan an event of which our community and the entire Richmond Region would have been proud,” Millner said in a statement. “Our preparation puts us on solid footing as we postpone the festival to 2022, when we hope to hold it in June as part of the national observation of LGBTQ Pride Month. This has long been a goal of ours, and this just may give us that opportunity.”
VA Pridefest’s organizers stressed that the decision to postpone was not made lightly, and was arrived at with the help of VA Pride’s sponsors, volunteers, and community partners. Black Pride RVA co-founder Luise “Cheezi” Farmer offered her organization’s support for the decision to postpone, saying, “Posponing Pridefest is the right thing to do under the circumstances. I know I speak not just for Black Pride RVA, but for other LGBTQ and allied organizations when I say that we are grateful to the volunteers and leadership of Virginia Pride for putting the health and safety of our community first.”
VA Pride hopes to be able to hold some smaller events in September that will have more limited attendance, and at which they can require masks and/or proof of vaccination. Still, losing the big VA Pridefest throwdown at Brown’s Island for another year is a big blow to Virginia’s LGBTQ community — and no one knows this better than the organizers of VA Pridefest.
“We know this is not the outcome that we, nor anyone in our community, had hoped or planned for,”Millner said. “But we are also firm in our conviction that is absolutely the right thing to do.”
Photo from VA Pridefest 2018 by Sara Wheeler