Virginia Pride announced today that its annual PrideFest, held on Brown’s Island in Richmond in late September, will not be held due to ongoing concerns and uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The festival, which draws more than 40,000 attendees and is supported by many of the region’s biggest companies, was slated for Saturday, September 26.
Virginia Pride made the decision out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of the artists, volunteers, vendors, patrons and sponsors that are the foundation of the annual event.
“Our first and foremost concern is for the health and safety of our community,” said James Millner, President of Virginia Pride. “While there was some hope that restrictions on larger outdoor events would have eased by September, we could not, in good conscience, hold an event that put anyone at risk.”
Limiting the size and scope of the event was also not an option for organizers. Brown’s Island is a public park with multiple entrances and controlling access to the event would have been virtually impossible.
Virginia Pride has formed a special committee to explore more virtual programming for the remainder of the year. The organization is also leaving the door open for smaller, in-person events to bring the community together should state and local officials say it is safe to gather.
“We know this will be disappointing to our LGBTQ community and our allies. But, we are resilient. We will not let this steal our pride,” Millner said.
This year would have been one of the most festive PrideFests ever as Virginia recently enacted sweeping laws that go into effect tomorrow, July 1, that extend discrimination protections to LGBTQ people, becoming the first state in the South to do so.
“Our community has much progress to celebrate this year, but much work remains,” Millner explained. “We firmly believe that LGBTQ organizations like Virginia Pride have a role to play in supporting and amplifying Black voices and fighting for Black Lives. We, as an organization, now have the opportunity to focus on how we can best use our time, energy and resources to support those efforts.”
This will be only the second time in 40 years that Richmond has not had some sort of annual pride event.