Billed as "the most colorful weekend of the year" (in reference to the rainbow motif that has become a symbol of gay rights), this year's edition of the Memphis Pride Fest runs Friday through Sunday, with multiple events "designed to bring together the LGBTQ+ community and our allies in celebration and support of our shared values of love, inclusivity, and equality," according to the website of Mid-South Pride, the host organization.
The festival arrives at a fraught time for freedom of expression and LGBTQ+ rights, with some politicians and others seeking to inhibit or curtail drag performances and the increasing national recognition of June as "Pride Month." To this end, local advocates have scheduled educational events alongside parties and parades during Pride Fest.
Here's a preview of some of the highlight events set for Pride Fest. A full schedule can be found at events.midsouthpride.org.
Memphis Pride Parade
Arguably the main attraction of the weekend, the Pride Parade traces its origins back to the gay rights marches of the early 1980s. In 1994, a planned march was re-imagined as a "parade," with the late musician and Memphis historian Vincent Astor as a chief organizer; the idea was that a "parade" would attract many more participants and onlookers than a more overtly political "march."
This year's parade begins at 1 p.m. Saturday at Fourth and Beale, and is scheduled to wend its way through the Beale Street Entertainment District for about 90 minutes. Organizers say more than 100 groups will participate; as usual, elaborate floats will be a highlight.
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Memphis Pride Festival
The parade is, in fact, the centerpiece of Saturday's Pride Festival, set for 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at Robert Church Park on Beale. Organizers promise more than 150 vendors offering "a diverse shopping experience," plus food trucks, a car show, free HIV screenings, resources for health and wellness, and more. Celebrity guests set to attend include two of the stars of the reality competition series, "RuPaul's Drag Race": the British-born Lady Camden; and Nashville's Kameron Michaels.
Pride Night at 901 FC
Also Saturday, Memphis' professional soccer team, 901 FC, hosts a "Pride promotion," in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. The match against Miami FC starts at 7:30 p.m. at AutoZone Park; tickets start at $10.
Big Gay Dance Party
Friday, June 2, from 8 p.m. until the wee hours (officially: 2 a.m.), the venue that has been a historic home to Pride parties, the New Daisy on Beale, will transform itself into a dance club, so attendees can "cross-dress and dance the night away," according to the Dance Party page of the Pride website.
The theme for this 11th annual Dance Party is "Hate Is a Drag!," and attendees are invited to dress as their favorite celebrities or their "favorite decade" ("Hello to all our Disco Divas!" cheers the website). Tickets range from $15 to $130.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Memphis Pride Fest 2023: What to know about parade, festival, parties