Lehigh Valley Pride to go virtual this year

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The upcoming “virtual vendor fair” at Lehigh Valley Pride.

The Lehigh Valley Pride Festival will celebrate virtually this year on Sunday, August 16th, the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center announced. The celebrations will include youth and teen programs, a faith service, and a virtual-reality vendor fair, all culminating with a 2:00 p.m. televised “Pridestream” event featuring “RuPaul’s Drag Race” stars Jujubee, Alexis Matteo and Ariel Versace, PA Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, pop-rock musician Steve Grand, and a slate of musicians, comedians, and actors.

Adrian Shanker, executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan Center, said that even though this year’s pride is shifting to a virtual space, it is designed to be similarly diverse and accessible, including a closed-captioned main event broadcast on Facebook, Youtube, and RCN.

“In normal years, Lehigh Valley Pride is a large community celebration with youth and teen programs, two stages for drag arts and music, an artist promenade, faith services, and more. A virtual pride is obviously different, but we wanted to give our community as many similar experiences as possible.”

Many pride celebrations around the country have gone virtual this year, including Los Angeles, Dallas, and New York. A coalition of pride organizations worldwide also produced Global Pride, which aired in late June for 26 continuous hours and featured activists, entertainers, politicians and community groups. Shanker said that those events helped inspire what Lehigh Valley’s virtual pride would be this year.

“We announced very early that our pride would be a virtual event — we know how important it is to keep our community safe from the dangerous COVID-19 virus. But the timeline and the tasks associated with creating a virtual pride are very different than an in-person pride. We watched a variety of other virtual pride festivals elsewhere in the country to get ideas, we talked to our colleagues that have produced these events, and we did a lot of research to figure out what would work best — both technologically and for our community.”

One technological challenge was bringing the vendor tables, always a mainstay of pride celebrations, to a digital space. Lehigh Valley’s virtual vendor fair will feature 30 nonprofits and LGBT-supportive businesses and will utilize a technology called Art Steps, which allows users to customize the shape of the “gallery” as well as what appears in it.

In addition to the “Pridestream” and vendor fair, the virtual pride will feature a morning hour of family-friendly programming including a children’s book reading, rainbow flag arts and crafts, and drag queen story time. After the kids event will be a virtual open-house for Project SILK, an LGBTQ inclusive youth-led drop-in program, as well as a faith service led by the Metropolitan Community Church. Following the main televised event, Project SILK will host a conversation with youth leaders about how they are celebrating Pride and how historical moments such as the Stonewall Riots connect to current world issues.

“We want our community to know that pride is not cancelled,” Shanker said, “it’s just virtual. We have worked hard to produce a very exciting virtual pride festival, grounded in continuing the struggle for equal justice but also celebrating the arts and culture in our community.”

For more information on Lehigh Valley Pride, visit https://www.bradburysullivancenter.org/pride/.