Pride Parade and Festival celebrate valley’s gay community

Dig the folding chairs out of the garage, stock up your cooler with some refreshing beverages and clear your schedule for about three hours Friday night: It’s time for the 29th annual Pride Parade.

This unabashed celebration of the local gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community kicks off at 7 p.m. downtown. That’s when comedians and gay icons Joan Rivers, Margaret Cho and Kathy Griffin will take to the grandstand at Fourth Street and Bridger Avenue to officially start the evening’s festivities, with the parade starting at 8 p.m.

There will probably be a little drag queen action, maybe a faux tussle between the famed comedians and some of their infamous impersonators. And then Griffin, Cho and Rivers will split in a limo. Rivers has a performance scheduled that night at The Venetian.

As brief as their appearance will be in the parade, it is still a big deal for the local LGBT community, says Ernie Yuen, president of the Southern Nevada Association of Pride Inc. That’s the nonprofit that hosts the annual weeklong Pride celebration, parade and festival.

Never before has the Las Vegas parade attracted such big gay icons, Yuen says.

"You always want to make something bigger and better," says Greg Chase, a SNAPI volunteer who secured the comedians for the parade. "I told Ernie, ‘Let’s go big or go home. Let’s try getting Kathy Griffin.’ "

Yuen’s response: "Good luck with that."

Griffin, well-known for her support of the gay community, seemed like a pie-in-the-sky goal. But all it took was one email, Chase says.

"Next thing you know, I have three of them," he says. "We’re so lucky to have them come out and support our community."

Dozens of floats are expected to wind their way through downtown, along Fourth Street between Charleston and Bridger avenues. You can sit in the bleachers by the grandstand or position a folding chair anywhere along the route, Yuen says.

Saturday, the Pride Festival is scheduled from noon to 10 p.m. at the Clark County Government Center Amphitheater, 500 S. Grand Central Parkway. More than 70 vendors are expected to man their booths through the day and evening.

About 10,000 people are expected to attend. If you are among the attendees, leave your coolers and chairs at home. Those are not allowed at the festival, Yuen says.

Admission to the festival costs $15 for adults and $10 for youths 6 to 17. Children 5 and under are free.

For more information, visit lasvegaspride.org.

Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at spadgett@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564. Follow @StripSonya on Twitter.

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