A Night and a Day of Pride

Fred Phelps may disagree with me on this, but I steadfastly believe that the definition of fun is the union of downtown Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Pride Festival and Parade. Tonight, this celebration of our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, now in its 29th year, returns to the streets of downtown — and from the looks of the schedule on Las Vegas Pride’s official website, this parade and festival is going to be an outstanding party.

Las Vegas’ Pride parade is held at night, a rarity for pride events. (As near as I can tell, Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is the only other after-dark GLBT parade.) It’s a distinction with two huge benefits: it allows everyone to forgo sunscreen, and it allows the parade to draw on this city’s nighttime mojo. The lights of the Fremont Street Experience create a dazzling visual backdrop, and the marchers and performers can really get the crowds fired up.

The honorary grand marshals for the parade are Margaret Cho, Kathy Griffin and Joan Rivers. (Yes, these are the real celebrities — it’s not just Frank Marino pulling quick costume changes.) The parade starts at 8 p.m. at 4th and Charleston, and it ends at 4th and Ogden, just after it passes the Fremont Street canopy. I have to confess that will be my favorite part of the parade route—watching our Pride parade flowing through crowds of unsuspecting tourists. Just another Friday night in downtown.

But that’s only one part of Pride. Hopefully, everyone will save their energy for the Pride Festival, an all-ages day of performances and revelry happening at the Clark County Government from noon to 10 p.m. on Sept. 8. Unlike the parade, there’s a cover charge for the festival: Adults 18 and over are $15; kids age 6 to 17 are $10; and everyone under 5 gets in free.

And did I mention we’re expecting company for this thing? Lots of company? Because we are.

“We’re teaming with Gay Days,” says Pride president Ernie Yuen. “They’re extremely popular during the summertime in Orlando, when they do their red shirt day at Disney World. Gay Days turned 21 this year, so they decided to venture out and do something here in Vegas.”

Yuen conservatively estimates some 5,000 Gay Days  visitors coming to town for Pride. (Gay Days organizers have promised 20,000 to 30,000 visitors, a figure Yuen thinks to be “a little steep” for their first year in Vegas.) This means two things: a big party just became immense, and you’ll probably be using First Friday’s remote parking and free shuttles for the first time.

But it you’re thinking of sitting out either Pride or First Friday because of the crowds, don’t. This is what we’ve always wanted: a downtown with so much going on that we have to choose what to see and do, and live with the regret of missing out on something. Tonight you should take in as much of this street life as you can, and rejoice in the fact that even in the ebb of a citywide recession, every cultural scene in this town is blowing the hell up. 

Visit LasVegasPride.org for a complete schedule. iPhone users can download a Las Vegas Gay Pride app in the iTunes store.