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Martha Wash Headlines Richmond’s PrideFest

by Troy Petenbrink
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Sep 30, 2011

LGBT Virginians certainly know that their state's motto, "Virginia is for Lovers," does not apply to them.

Virginia does not recognize sexual orientation or gender identity as a protected class, and it formally bans any recognition of same-sex unions-including those that are legal in other states. Despite the Old Dominion State's anti-gay efforts - or, in some cases because of it - hundreds of gays as well as their family members and allies attended PrideFest 2011 in Richmond on Saturday, Sept. 24.

The festival was held in Kanawha Plaza, a short walk from the state Capitol building in downtown Richmond. Dozens of community organizations and businesses sponsored the annual event. And it featured performances from Washington, D.C.,-based singer Tom Gross and diva Martha Wash of "It's Raining Men" fame.

Goss particularly likes performing at smaller gay Pride celebrations such as PrideFest. "The fact that the [Richmond] community is together and so unified is awesome," he said. "In cities, such as Washington, D.C., the community can become spoiled by the rights they have."

Wash told EDGE her participation in PrideFest was deeply personal

"It means a lot to me because the LGBT community has been the strongest fan base for me for over 30 years," she said. "I like going out and meeting the fans and hearing the stories of what my music means to them. It lets me know that I must be doing something right."

The crowd certainly thought Wash was doing it right when she sang her signature song. Released in 1982, "It's Raining Men" was a world-wide hit and has become a staple in gay nightclubs. As part of the 2011 Tony Awards, Wash performed it with the Broadway cast of "Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the Musical."

"I like to do music that inspires people and gets them from one day to the next," Wash told in a pre-Pride interview. "A lot of time people think they're the only one going through something hard. I help them realize we're not alone in this. We can all kind of survive this and move forward and get better."

Wash, who has been singing since she was three years old, is working on a new CD. The first single "I've Got You" is already available, and the video can be seen on her official website.

PrideFest was part of Rainbow Over Richmond, a series of events taking place through October that are designed to promote Virginia's capital city as a welcoming destination for LGBT travelers.

Rainbow Over Richmond is organized by the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau. The bureau is partnering with the city's many gay-friendly TAG Approved hotels and Amtrak, which provides travel options to LGBT travelers via its website. sponsors the Rainbow Over Richmond website.

Troy Petenbrink resides in Washington, DC and is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter:


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