Last Sunday's senseless mass shooting at Pulse, an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida, left an immediate and indelible scar on the global gay community, an injury made graver by the fact that it occurred in June, the month when gay pride is celebrated the world over. Here in Denver, we're preparing for PrideFest, a forty-year-old event that brings hundreds of thousands of people to Civic Center Park, which radiates as the epicenter of the city’s affirmation that we're free to be and love whomever we want — and to be visible doing it.
As social media exploded with shock, thoughts, memories, anger and continual discussion after the Orlando shootings, much of that discussion focused on what would happen to Pride. But the community quickly came together with two major events — Tracks held a vigil Sunday night, and PFLAG Denver organized a candlelight memorial in Cheesman Park on Monday — and each one attracted thousands of people who come together in solidarity for the victims and to show that it's important to remain visible in a time when the natural reaction is to retreat.
Both events reminded our community that Pride absolutely must go on, not just for those of us lucky enough to be alive to experience it, but to hold a torch high for those who lost their lives in Orlando as well as the others who are no longer here, after fighting for visibility for decades, a freedom that often came with a price. In these dark moments, we pay respect by dancing, living, loving and — as I expressed to a friend who was fighting feeling shame for participating in this weekend’s events — being the beacon of light that brings the ships home in the dark, even if we feel just as lost as everyone else.
The community is coming together, and to quell fears, every venue will ramp up security all weekend; the Denver Police Department is also intensifying its mission to “protect and to serve.” Some patience may be needed as you celebrate this weekend; extra security means a more thorough check at venues. Many of those venues — including Tracks, which always leads by example — have announced that portions of the proceeds from the weekend are being donated to charities, and many of the performers and drag stars are donating their tips, as well, to give back to the community even as they entertain that community.
What follows is a (mostly) chronological list of the best events and venues where you can be part of the celebration and make history this week — something we all do every day by living out in the open. Tensions may be high, feelings may be uneasy, but the choice — the very thing we are prideful to experience — is yours. I, for one, need a break from the tears, so I’ll be out on the floor this weekend, ready to dance with you when when you’re ready.
15. SAGE Pride Week Events
Wednesday through Friday
Cheesman Park/The Center/Dazzle Restaurant
The Center, which produces PrideFest, this weekend’s main event, is celebrating forty years of helping the LGBTQ community here in Colorado. Grand as that anniversary is, there are individuals who are celebrating grander anniversaries: The Center has a program, SAGE (Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders), that puts our seniors front and center. Before you set off this week to all the big parties and beer busts, consider bringing a dish to SAGE’s Pride Picnic at Cheesman Park, where you can break bread with individuals who have been fighting the difficult fight for visibility for decades; their stories are important to strengthening the fabric of our torn community. Can’t made the picnic? There's also a movie screening, an art class with cocktails, a live stage reading and a lunch club where SAGE folks will be holding court, ready to share their lives with you. Consider volunteering for SAGE after Pride and enrich your own experience. Learn more at glbtcolorado.com.
14. Neverland Weekend at Tracks
Thursday through Saturday
3500 Walnut Street
Denver’s largest, fiercest and most inclusive gay club is pulling out all the stops for Pride, with big events and big guest stars all weekend long. The theme is “Neverland” — Peter Pan’s world where rules don’t exist and nothing but fun is to be had! Kicking it off is the 18+ Superstar Thursday with a special performance by Drag Race alien Alaska Thunderfuck, who’ll perform after a special number by Denver’s quirky, gangly answer to her: Yvie Oddly. Friday brings two huge events with Babes Around Denver’s “Lost Girls” Women’s Party on the Tracks side, while Drag Nation takes over Exdo with Drag Nation, starring Denver’s Best Long-Running Drag Cast led by the legendary Nina Flowers and welcoming season eight of Drag Race’s big winner Bob The Drag Queen, coming into Pride "Purse First," along with fan favorite Latrice Royale and special musical guests En Vogue. Saturday a special Circuit Saturday edition brings N’Sync’s Lance Bass as emcee for an evening with house-music diva CeCe Peniston and Superstar DJs Grind and Danny Verde. Tracks DJs Markie, Blaque Gurl, Sean O’Grady and Tatiana fill out the rest of the dance rooms all weekend long. Each night has a different admission price, but you can buy a weekend bracelet for a nominal fee. Get yours and more at tracksdenver.com.
13. Neon Filth at Charlie’s
Friday through Sunday
900 East Colfax Colfax
Charlie’s is getting dirrrty with its Neon Filth party. On Friday the beloved bar will clear the parking lot and erect a giant temporary swimming pool, complete with water slide and sandy beach, promising a weekend full of swimsuits and skin. No shirt? No shoes? No problem! And on Sunday, Charlie’s will welcome Drag Race season eight’s leggy Top 3 queen, Naomi Smalls, to stomp the stage of Kai Lee’s Kiki. A special Fast Pass for the weekend will get you a reserved seat and entrance to a meet-and-greet for Kiki, as well as no waiting lines — which are guaranteed to be huge at this favorite bar that just celebrated its 35th anniversary on Colfax. Get more info at charliesdenver.com.
Summit Music Hall
The country’s hottest touring party, with the most “hirsute” man in mind, takes over the Summit Music Hall, where it will flood the floor with more hot, hairy men than you can shake a honey jar at. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. for a dance floor powered by DJ Tony Moran and Tony Cross, along with a carefully curated cast of Go-Go Bears and a laser light show. Tickets available day of Bearracuda at the Summit box office; get more info now at bearracuda.com.
Friday through Sunday
1700 Logan Street
Denver’s biggest bear bar is blowing out its last Pride weekend at its current location before a move to Five Points, with three events as big as a grizzly. Friday brings the Glow Party, featuring world-famous bear-nerd rapper Big Dipper and a dance party led by DJ Barry Harris. Saturday features the Wrangler’s Sweet dance party with an LED dance floor, where go-go bear and resident DJs Craig C. and Brent will turn it up to eleven. Wrangler closes out the weekend with its legendary Beer Bust, which will be the biggest patio party in town; catered food and a vendor fair will keep folks busy when they're not dancing, celebrating or chugging their brews. Friday and Saturday's events have no cover; Sunday’s beer bust has its usual charge for a cup, with special elevated passes for no waiting and more. Proceeds from the pours will go to local charities Denver Gay Men’s Chorus and HeyDenver. Get more info at denverwrangler.com.
Thursday through Saturday
After some management changes, Broadways has stepped up with an outdoor stage full of drag talent. On Thursday, Lady Sativa kicks things off with her Foreplay Cabaret, welcoming guest performers Vivian LeCher, 2016 Ultimate Queen Bella Couture-LeCher, Porsha DeMarco-Douglas, Mika, drag king Adam Clambert and local voice superstar Jake Miera singing live. On Saturday, Lady Sativa returns to host another scorching night of drag heat with Porsha and Vivian returning with hot hot Lacey Vanderpump, Kyile Vanderpump, Mani Queen, Jazzmin Starr, and Krystina Fatale. Foreplay Cabaret is free which leaves some extra dollar bills for tipping these beauties. Learn more at Broadways Facebook Page.
9. M Uptown’s Superqueeros Weekend
Thursday through Sunday
700 East 17th Avenue
The former Hamburger Mary’s space is enjoying its first Pride under new ownership — but that's no reasn to worry: You'll still have a gay old time! The fun starts Thursday with the Catwomen Beer Bust, M's answer to the Wrangler’s brawny bust, on the giant patio, followed by a villain-themed gay bingo night. Friday brings Dreamgirls and its cast, with renowned drag star/gay porn directress Chi Chi LaRue sharing the stage in a special Sex & Superheroes show. Chi Chi returns Saturday to deejay a giant patio party that leads into Anime Invasion, a drag show produced by and starring the Colorado Tini Girls and featuring Drag Race star Jujubee. Sunday brings a drag brunch and production of the venue’s new game-show experience, M Fam Feud (like Family Feud, but gayer!). All events are free except for the Anime Invasion show; get those tickets at events-by-christopher.com. Find more info on the whole weekend on M Uptown's Facebook Page.
8. Denver Comic Con
Friday through Sunday
Colorado Convention Center
The last few years, PrideFest and Denver Comic Con have both fallen on Father’s Day weekend; this year they're joining forces with programming that celebrates the communities that both groups share. Of course, PrideFest is open to all —and anyone who is cosplaying will be a welcome sight among the diverse crowds at Civic Center Park — but Comic Con has also organized a clutch of panels and events on Friday that center on queer characters, plots and more that have cropped up in the world of comics for decades. And on Sunday, a giant Gay Geek Wedding and Unity Ceremony will occur at the Con, for the biggest, geekiest matrimonial cosplay to ever occur at a pop-culture convention. Shazaam! Read all about it and get tickets at popcultureclassroom.org.
Keep reading for more places to celebrate Pride.
7. Corky’s Pool Party Finale
Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
1700 block of Logan Street
At seventy years young, community fixture Corky Blankenship remains a shining, sweet, sassy example of how to live a gay life to the fullest. His yearly Pride pool parties have done more than entertain: Fundraisers for his Corky Cares Foundation, which distributes donations to organizations in our community that need it most, they’re a wet-and-wild way of giving back. Now, after nine years, Corky has decided to throw one last party and go out with a bang — with multiple pools, a huge sound system ruled by two DJs, food vendors, an open bar, fifty feet of water slides, a swimwear fashion show, drag performers, go-go boys and countless other surprises. Get your tickets and more info on the Corky's Facebook Event Page.
6. 4th Annual Cross Walk Cross Off
Saturday, 3 p.m.
Crosswalk in front of Buffalo Exchange
During Buffalo Exchange's Cross Walk Cross Off, contestants can work that crosswalk while the light is green, showing off their gayest, fiercest, Vogue-iest walk. Wanna cartwheel and death-drop right in the middle of Broadway? Now's your chance to leave some glitter-filled potholes in the asphalt. Sign your team up at buffaloexchangecolorado.com.
Saturday, 9 p.m.
Club M at M Uptown
It wouldn’t be Pride weekend without a Dragstravaganza show from Diva Dozen alum Daniella DeCoteau, whose Showgasm is guaranteed to set your night on fire with performances by the theatrical queen herself as well as a bevy of her beautiful friends: her delicious drag daughter Daphne DeCoteau, Jessica L’Whor, Victoria Sexton, Felony Misdemeanor, Mirage Delamor and a very special guest from Seattle, Ruby Bouche. In keeping with its title, the show promises to be bouncy, bawdy and bad to the bone! Get your tickets at eventbrite.com before they sell out.
4. Rocky Mountain Shining Star Pageant
Saturday, 10 p.m.
The Rocky Mountain Shining Star competition is more than just a fierce drag show; the pageant was started as a way to create positive change in the LGBTQ community and, according to the organization's website, “reward talent, communication skills, community service, and academic achievement of our winners. In blending traditional female and male impersonation talents with progressive community outreach, the RMSS crown and its court commit to educate, empower and affirm the diverse spectrum of all communities.” Sounds like just the kind of show that is needed this week. Denver Shining Star Menage E’toi and Fort Collins Mr. and Ms. Northern Shining Stars MaveRick Smith and Khryst’aaal will bring some royal class and sass to the festivities. Get tickets and learn more at rmss.tk.
3. R&R Lounge
4958 East Colfax Avenue
Best Gay Bar in the Best of Denver 2016, the R&R isn’t planning anything flashy for Pride — but it doesn't need to. The epitome of an original gay safe space, the bar has been welcoming our community since 1977, longer than almost every other gay bar in town, and its mere existence is worth celebrating. The R&R will open early on the day of PrideFest, at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, when it will serve complimentary breakfast burritos; there will be a BBQ at 3 p.m. and a shuttle service running all day from the R&R to Civic Center Park and sister bar Trade on Santa Fe (and back again). Find out more on the R&R Facebook page.
2. Climax Sunday at Vinyl
Sunday, doors at 6 p.m.
Celebrating ten years as the biggest Sunday night LGBTQ dance party in town, Climax Sunday has been scorching the roof at Vinyl since Memorial Day with DJs Tatiana and Ken-E. Climax marks the literal apex of fun this weekend; doors open at 6 p.m. Sunday, just as PrideFest winds down at Civic Center Park three blocks away. Hit that dance floor, baby, and celebrate the end of this highly emotional but empowering week. Get more info at coclubs.com.
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Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Civic Center Park
The main event, the epicenter of all that will be gay and queer this weekend, is the Center’s PrideFest celebration. It's one of the largest Pride celebrations in the country, and organizers are expecting over 350,000 people during the two-day run, when there will be something for everyone from every color of the rainbow. Dozens of vendors and organizations hawking gay wares and services, a smorgasbord of food, multiple dance areas presided over by the city’s best DJs, and a Latin stage to celebrate the zest of Latino culture are just some of the special features; the Center Stage will host a cavalcade of gay entertainment, from singers to dancers, drag queens and kings, along with headliners CeCe Peniston and Cazwell. On Sunday, the annual Pride parade will pour from Cheesman Park down Colfax to the PrideFest grounds, with the community’s biggest and best supporters sponsoring floats that celebrate living life as the individuals we all are — loud, proud, and right out in the open. See the full schedule of events and more at glbtcolorado.org.