As the Atlanta Pride Committee puts the finishing touches on the main event, set for Oct. 13-14 in Piedmont Park, there are plenty of official opportunities to celebrate in the week leading up to the festival. The annual AIDS Vigil and Commitment Ceremony are two traditions sure to draw throngs, while an expanded schedule of lead-up nightlife events helps raise funds.
“We’re working fast and furiously to make sure all of the logistical elements are in place, from fencing to port-potties, signage to t-shirts. You know, the really sexy part of running a festival!” jokes Buck Cooke, Atlanta Pride’s managing director.
Atlanta Pride, the Southeast’s largest LGBT event, brings entertainers, vendors, nonprofits and thousands of LGBT people and allies to Piedmont Park for two days of entertainment and empowerment.
Saturday highlights include the Trans March, the Dyke March and headliner Andy Bell of Erasure; Sunday highlights include the Pride Parade, headliner Amy Ray of Indigo Girls and the closing Starlight Cabaret.
But official Pride events get underway well before the crowds arrive at Piedmont Park. Among the most poignant is the annual Pride AIDS Vigil, set for Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. Saint Mark United Methodist Church.
“Historically, we have to understand that we lost most of a generation of the LGBTQ movement to HIV and AIDS. I think it is central to the mission of Atlanta Pride to reflect on our past as we are charting a bold, exciting course for our future, and the AIDS Vigil is certainly a big part of that. …
“I think it is important to honor the struggle some have with HIV and AIDS, and to celebrate the lives that thrive and blossom in spite of the impact of a diagnosis,” Cooke says.
The following night offers two official Pride events: a new fundraising dinner and wine-tasting at Fifth Ivory Public House sponsored by Chris Coleman Enterprises, and the Pride Commitment Ceremony, sponsored by Macy’s and held at 7 p.m. at Altitude at the W Midtown hotel.
Pride volunteer and former staffer Darie Wolfson will officiate the 2012 Commitment Ceremony with Pastor Troy Sanders of the Fellowship.
“I tried very hard to come up with a plan for the ceremony that was interfaith — including all faiths, such as pagan tradition, etc. and attempting to be inclusive of those who may be agnostic or atheist,” says Wolfson, who also officiated last year.
The ceremony offers a “crucial” chance for couples to declare their love while also sending a message about marriage equality, she says.
“For so many, to have that moment in time to stand before family and friends and publicly acknowledge their love and commitment to one another is truly life-changing,” Wolfson says.
“It helps people know that there are many, many of us out here trying to change the system.”
Registration is $25 in advance or $35 at the door and includes a certificate; participants can register online at www.atlantapride.org
Atlanta Pride’s official Kickoff Party takes over the Georgia Aquarium on Friday, Oct. 13, with the VIP Party in the venue’s ballroom followed by the main party throughout the aquarium.
Despite a controversy over whether sound from DJs disturbs the aquatic animals (see story, Page 4), Cooke says tickets are selling quickly.
“We may even be sold out by the time this story hits the newsstands,” he says.
After that, it’s time to head to Piedmont Park with 200,000 of your closest LGBT friends — and the Pride Committee could use your help.
“We still need 150-200 more volunteers to make the festival happen, so we encourage people to visit our website and sign up for a shift,” Cooke says. “As much fun as you have at the festival, it’s not too much to ask for four hours to help make it happen.”
More pre-Pride events
As in previous years, Atlanta Pride has partnered with local nightlife venues to raise funds at popular events in the weeks leading up to the festival. Look for Pride volunteers collecting donations at venues including Swinging Richards (Sept. 29), My Sister’s Room (Oct. 3 and Oct. 7), Mary’s (Oct. 6) and Jungle (Oct. 10).
Other local organizations and businesses are also ramping up their pre-Pride activities.
Thursday, Oct. 11, will be a particularly busy night. In addition to Pride’s dinner and commitment ceremony, the Atlanta Executive Network hosts a Pride kick-off featuring Stuart Milk, Atlanta Pride honorary grand marshal and nephew of groundbreaking gay politician Harvey Milk.
Integrity Atlanta hosts its 23rd annual Pride Eucharist, featuring Rt. Rev’d J. Neil Alexander, Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta, and Charis Books & More hosts a Pride celebration with QueerBOIS.com.
Atlanta Pride Beer Bust
Oct. 6, 3-6 p.m. at Fifth Ivory Public House
‘Love Free or Die’ Screening
Sponsored by Atlanta Pride for Out on Film
Oct. 7, 4:50 p.m. at Midtown Art Cinema
Atlanta Pride AIDS Vigil
Oct. 10, 7 p.m.
St. Mark United Methodist Church
Atlanta Pride Commitment Ceremony
Oct. 11, 7 p.m. at Altitude at W Hotel Midtown
Atlanta Pride Dinner & Wine-Tasting
Oct. 11, first seating 7 p.m., second at 8:30 p.m.
Fifth Ivory Public House
• $30 for two-course meal with wine
• $50 person for four-course meal with wine
Official Atlanta Pride Kickoff Party
Oct. 12, 6:30 — 11:30 p.m.
The Georgia Aquarium
Atlanta Pride Festival
Oct. 13-14 in Piedmont Park
PRIDE NIGHTLIFE FUNDRAISERS
Pride volunteers will be on hand to collect donations at these events.
Boy Next DoorUnderwear Show
Sept. 29 at Swinging Richards
Twisted Sister Karaoke
Oct. 3, 9 p.m. at My Sister’s Room
Oct. 6, 10 p.m. at Mary’s
Oct. 7, 1-3 p.m. at My Sister’s Room
Atlanta Pride Night at Dragnificent
Oct. 10, 9 p.m. at Jungle
OTHER PRE-PRIDE EVENTS
Atlanta Executive Network
Pride Kickoff with Stuart Milk
Oct. 11, 6:30 p.m. at the Rush Center
23rd Pride Eucharist
Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m. at All Saints Episcopal
Pride Kickoff with QueerBOIS.com
Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m. at Charis Books & More
Top photo: The annual Commitment Ceremony, set for Oct.11, is one of several Atlanta Pride traditions in the week leading up to the city’s massive LGBT festival. (by Brent Corcoran/RNZ Photography)