Williamsburg will host its first Pride Festival this spring as the area becomes more LGBTQ-friendly.
On April 4, the new group Love is Love Williamsburg will be hosting the first Pride Festival in the area. The group formed last spring as a way to address the lack of available LGBTQ resources in Williamsburg.
Since then, they have hosted a number of events including a “Coming Out Party” at Billsburg Brewery in September.
“I think the more people realize that we’re here and normal, the more attitudes will change,” said Cat Slade, a board member of Love is Love Williamsburg. “It’s the same with any kind of visibility…if you see more people doing good, it might lead you to see more people as human.”
Slade said the group wants to continue hosting bigger and better events as time goes on.
She said from the group’s conception, there was always a desire to host a Pride Festival because while there were ones in Richmond, Newport News and Norfolk, there wasn’t anything for people in this area to celebrate.
Last June, Slade was attending a Pride Festival in Hampton Roads when she discussed with an acquaintance wanting to start something for people in Williamsburg. That’s when she discovered Love is Love Williamsburg had just formed and threw herself into the organization.
“I wanted a group of people that knew what I was going through and that I could discuss LGBTQ issues with,” she said. “I know that Williamsburg is an older town, and I think it’s been lacking in resources for LGBTQ people and we wanted to try and fill that void.”
Slade said there are about 10 to 15 people in the group helping to plan the festival but they all are doing it with the hope of not only spreading visibility in the area, but also providing resources.
At Williamsburg’s first festival, Slade said the goal is to have plenty of representatives from the health care field available. The group already has a large amount of mental health professionals involved, but she said the group wants to help cover all aspects of health.
“People really need not just mental health, but physicians that are familiar with LGBTQ health care,” she said. “It has its own unique set of challenges and a lot of health care providers are not familiar with those challenges.”
She said the goal of the festival is simply to have fun and make connections. Slade said an event like this, and other events the group has hosted, will hopefully move Williamsburg into a more comfortable space for LGBTQ residents.
“For me, it’s really just feeling safe in being yourself,” she said. “So that you can walk down the street and hold hands with your significant other, to know that your community supports you and you know you don’t have to be afraid.”
Currently, the group is planning to host the event at Retro Daddio at 6610 Mooretown Road. Slade expects the event to become much larger in the coming years.
The group hopes to host it in Downtown Williamsburg in 2021, but Slade said it will require more funding and planning — the group’s trying to raise $10,000 for the event.
Organizers are expecting anywhere from 200 to 500 people and will have food trucks, vendors, and other activities.
While planning is still in the early stages, Slade said she is excited to see the organization take this next big step.
“I think the more involvement we get from the greater community, the more people will feel safe discussing LGBTQ topics and the more visibility there will be in the community,” she said.
For more information, visit Love is Love Williamsburg online.