The official opening party for Atlanta Pride at the Georgia Aquarium sold out in record time and the newly established VIP passes are also selling well as the countdown to the largest Pride fest in the southeast continues.

With Atlanta Pride just about two weeks away, set for Oct. 12-13 in Piedmont Park, a full schedule of pre-Pride events as well as new programming in the park is coming together, said Buck Cooke, executive director. Tens of thousands of people are expected to flood Piedmont Park over the weekend.

The official kick-off party on Oct. 11 at the Georgia Aquarium sells out every year – this year sold out Sept. 24. The party brings together some 4,000 people to the venue where Vicki Powell will be the headlining DJ and Chris Griswold will also be spinning the beats.

Several Atlanta Pride events are held in the days leading up to the big weekend. An HIV/AIDS Vigil is set for Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. at St. Mark United Methodist Church. An Out on Film screening of “Southern Baptist Sissies” sponsored by Atlanta Pride is also on Oct. 9 at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema at 9:15 p.m.

This year’s entertainment lineup includes such names as Taylor Dayne, YouTube country crooner sensation Steve Grand, Debby Holiday, Bonnie McKee and Sonia Leigh.

Atlanta locals will also recognize one of the city’s finest, Atlanta Police Officer and LGBT liaison Brian Sharp singing on the Bud Light stage on Oct. 12. Sharp just released a solo album, “Lonely For You.” And, of course, it’s not Atlanta Pride without the Starlight Cabaret to close out the weekend on the main stage on Oct. 13.

“People are excited about the talent we are bringing,” Cook said. “We’ve been working 16 months on this to make sure the festival reaches every part of our community.”

New this year includes a collaboration between Atlanta Pride and the queer-led youth group JustUs ATL to hold events and provide a space for young people. The space will be held at the Bandstand on Oct. 12 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. JustUs ATL will also have a Youth Block of entertainment on the Bud Light stage beginning at noon on Oct. 12.

There will also be expanded kids programming on Oct. 12 near the park’s playground and Greystone Pool House, Cooke said. There will be arts and crafts, a puppet show and even kids yoga.

Speaking of yoga, last year’s Lady Gaga yoga session was so popular it returns again on Oct. 12 and will be held in the park’s athletic fields. Presented by lululemon athletica and Tough Love Yoga, the all-levels class will be fueled by the music of the Mother Monster.

Also new this year is an LGBT College Fair on Oct. 12.

“We’ve got a lot of new things we’re rolling out hopefully people will enjoy and find them beneficial,” Cook said. “We want to see people enjoying the programming, the talent, the marches, the more family-oriented programming.”

There will of course be the expansive marketplace throughout the park and a community health expo where attendees can receive free HIV tests.

A commitment ceremony will be held at the W Atlanta Midtown on Oct. 12 starting at 11 a.m. And then there’s time to put on your marching boots for the annual Trans March and Dyke March, also on Oct. 12. Other events that day include a Military Veterans Taps and Wreath Placing Ceremony at the intersection of 12th St. and Piedmont Ave.

The Atlanta Pride Parade on Oct. 13 steps off at its traditional time of 1 p.m. and thousands of people will line the streets to watch floats representing gay bars, favorite restaurants, the leather community, politicians and numerous non-profit organizations serving the LGBT communities.

And it wouldn’t be Pride without the parties. Atlanta’s gay bars are offering up some of their own hot entertainment and specials for the weekend. The official closing party this year on Oct. 13 is at Jungle with DJ Corey David.

On Friday, Oct. 11, a new party is coming to town: “TAB,” and will be held at the Tabernacle in center city Atlanta near Olympic Park. Entry fee of $35 also gets you a ride on the new Skyview Ferris Wheel across the street from the venue. DJ Jay McCracken returns to Atlanta to spin for this party.

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