"I just like being able to be myself," says Bradley James Hein, who has attended Denver's PrideFest five times. "It's the one day when everyone feels really comfortable, [so] people really camp it up."
Kicking off with the colorful procession, which leaves Cheesman Park at 9:30 a.m. and ends up at Civic Center Park, PrideFest is a nonstop party with a political message in mind, and U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette will lead a noon rally in support of gay rights.
With the theme "Pride Worldwide: A Time for Us All," the afternoon entertainment begins at 1 p.m., with multicultural performances by African drummers, a Brazilian band and reggae musicians, as well as a set by Denver's Gay Men's Chorus. The LIDA Project, a local experimental-theater group, will regale the audience with a thirty-minute set from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, last year's rock-musical movie, which began its life on the stage.
"The atmosphere of the afternoon is hard to resist," says Kevin Scott, the event director.
The day is produced by the GLBT Community Center of Colorado, but it has links across the country.
Nationally, June gay-pride festivals commemorate the June 1969 Stonewall riots in New York's Greenwich Village. Denver held its first Gay Pride Parade in the mid-1980s, and the city now boasts one of the nation's largest PrideFests. Last year's events reportedly drew 110,000 people.
"It's been growing every year," says Scott. "This day is really the highlight of the year for the Rocky Mountain-region gay community."
New this year is "The Wall of Pride," an interactive area where people can share what PrideFest means to them. "You can write comments, draw, just respond to how this celebration makes you feel," Scott says.
"It's nice to see how big the community is, and everyone is always in such a good mood," Hein says. "The day has such a great spirit."