The second annual Delmarva Pride Festival opened Friday night at Easton’s Avalon Theater with a drag show featuring six queens strutting their sequined stuff on the Art Deco stage before mingling with a cafe-style audience who stuffed their hands and décolletage costumes with dollar bills. Even in high-rise heels, most also went upstairs to the boisterous fans seated in the balcony.
Queen of queens Miranda Bryant played host for a 2 1/2-hour pageant that also showcased Vicky Fischer, Kedra Lattimore, Kandi Pop, Brie Daniels, and Tania Lashay, the 2022 Miss Pride of Salisbury – all performing to recorded dance music.
Bryant, a drag veteran who admitted to a half-century plus one in age, lip-synced to a superstar of her mother’s generation, Dolly Parton while stripping to his bustier as dollars rained down from above and hand-to-hand from patrons at the 22 cafe tables below.
Kandi Pop, presumably a stage name, was introduced by Bryant as bisexual and transgender-in-progress – “I’m so confused,” he added jokingly. “Pop” was the first to run up the stairs to wow the balcony crowd. Everyone else followed Kandi’s example, even if by slow-moving elevator.
A statuesque Lashay took the drag soundtrack to hip-hop attention with a Beyonce number athletically delivered with a crowd-pleasing backflip, then closed her third round in the drag sequence with a hoot-inducing twerk.
Of Brie Daniels – we learned in the final number as he revealed himself as decidedly male Brian – host Bryant said, “We went through puberty together.” Brie’s skimpy outfit brought on a veritable torrent of dollar bills streaming down from one corner of the balcony.
If any drag-show virgin in the audience doubted that the singing was lip-synced, Kedra Lattimore, in her pastel gown, complete with wedding-style train, proved it was all recorded. No one on earth can sing like Whitney Houston, tragically not even Whitney anymore. Vicky Fischer picked up the rest of “I Will Always Love You” before segueing into a hot dance number to match his vibrantly curly red wig.
Delmarva Pride chair Kyle O’Donnell had advised attendees to “bring your dollar bills” – which they did in spades – some while re-upping at the cash bar. As for ticket sales, O’Donnell said that “100 percent goes to support the work of Delmarva Pride Center,” which includes monthly socials “to encourage people to come out and feel a sense of belonging and community in public.” Coming up in July is a pool party, bowling in August, and a nature hike in September. More importantly, money raised in this and other fund-raisers will go toward a brick-and-mortar Delmarva Pride Center – a true home base.
The Pride Festival continues Saturday with a Harrison Street fair from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., including main-stage entertainment hosted by MC Ryan featuring headliner Danah Denice along with The Sagacious Traveler, Madisun Bailey, Cameron Mae & Danny Alvarez, plus drag show reprises from the night before as well as new acts. And there’s an art show as well.
More than 100 vendors have signed up to sell their wares and wearables, along with food trucks and beverage stands, and, of course, people from Delmarva Pride to tell you everything you need to know about their work and what they’re abou
“We offer the Mid-Shore, Upper Shore LGBTQ community a safe space to be themselves,” says Tina Jones, a Wittman native and secretary/treasurer of Delmarva Pride.
“It goes back to visibility,” says Concetta Gibson, co-chair of Delmarva Pride. “Our center, what we do, makes it easier for us to find each other.”
“It’s about freedom to be yourself and having support to help keep your head up,” Ivan Colon says, adding that being a gay Latino can “reduce your earning power.”
Citing “intersectionality” – having more than one or two strikes against you in the eyes of those who hate people who are not like them – Jones, a white trans woman, says, “A black, trans woman is 14 times more likely to commit suicide.” Besides discrimination and violence against them, the trans community and others in the LGBTQ alphabet face legislative attacks, too. “More than 500 laws have been introduced in this country to make it more difficult for them to live their lives. Some of these laws mean that they can even take your kids away from you.”
Still, Jones feels lucky, she says, because “I came out later in life.” Now 56, Jones had a successful career that gave her the strength to keep her head up in the face of people who think that her transition is – somehow – any of their business.
But when she did come out, Jones says, “I ripped the doors off the closet.”
The Pride Festival winds up on Sunday morning, 10 a.m.-noon, with a Pride Brunch at ArtBar 2.0 in downtown Cambridge.
Steve Parks is a retired New York arts writer and editor now living in Easton.
DELMARVA PRIDE FESTIVAL
Friday, June 16-Sunday, June 18, in Easton and Cambridge, delmarvapridecenter.com