Every September, VA Pride hosts a massive outdoor festival called Pridefest that features entertainment, activities, vendors, speakers and Youth Pride Village. Last year, Pridefest was attended by an estimated 30,000 people, making it one of the largest one-day events in our region. And we are hard at work to ensure that this year’s festival will be bigger and better than ever.

But, VA Pride, the organization, has made a concerted effort to expand its role in the community beyond a one-day event. Our board has adopted the philosophy that Pride should be more than just a festival. It should be a feeling that our LGBTQ community should have all year long. Our community should be proud of who they are, where they live and what they contribute to our society.

This year, we embarked on an ambitious campaign to host more events, to increase our visibility and to support the work of our community partners in new and exciting ways. Between April and the festival in September, VA Pride will have hosted or supported more than two-dozen LGBTQ community events. We partnered with Richmond Triangle Players to bring Coco Peru to town who performed her act to a sold-out house. We hosted a Memorial Day cookout at Babes. We’ve partned with Quirk Rooftop to host a bi-weekly happy hour to bring people together. We’ve worked with our friends at Hardywood, Ardent and Center of the Universe to create fun and unique events at their facilities and will sponsor events at Barcode, Godfrey’s and Babes leading up to the festival. Information on upcoming events can be found at www.vapride.org/events.

We sponsored “Nerve-Stories of Queer Resilience” with the Virginia Anti-Violence Project and helped fund transportation to the March for Equality in Washington with Diversity Richmond.

VA Pride has also stepped up to be a voice for the LGBTQ community in the media, offering perspective, balance and accurate information in the ever-changing landscape of the fight for equality. We’ve been featured in local news broadcasts and in multiple features in the Richmond Times Dispatch. For the first time ever, we worked with GayRVA to produce a summer edition of the Pride Guide that contained features on members of our community, news about events and explored issues of race, gender and sexual orientation. We also maintain an active social media presence with some 10,000 followers to stay connected to our community to help those in our community stay connected to each other.

As VA Pride grows, both as a festival and an organization, there are more opportunities — and a greater need — for our community to get involved in what we do. We welcome volunteers to serve on committees to help plan Pridefest, support events and to help with marketing and community outreach. And, of course, we need hundreds of volunteers to help make Pridefest a success on September 23. IF you’d like to get involved, please visit www.vapride.org/volunteer.

VA Pride is of our community, for our community. Live Free. Live Proud. And we’ll see you on Saturday, September 23!