Celebrate all things LGBTQIA+ at this family-friendly event on June 18.
The Hill Center hasn’t historically hosted many events meant for the queer community. This Pride Month, Henery Wyand and Hill Center Programming Manager Haviland Atha-Simonton say they want to change that — which is why they’re organizing the center’s first Dragathon ExtravaGAYza.
“I was really excited to be able to create a space to highlight drag artists, to highlight other queer artists,” says Wyand, who used to work at the Hill Center. “The Hill Center is such a great venue. I’m really excited to introduce my family to that space.”
The festival on June 18 will feature two hours of outdoor drag performances — including Wyand, who will emcee as drag queen Hennessey. Local queer artists and organizations are set to have stands at the event, and a food truck and drinks will be available.
Given the center’s location in Capitol Hill, Atha-Simonton says people often look at the area in a political light, meaning it’s critical to uplift drag performers there — especially as anti-drag legislation is passed across the U.S.
“I just feel like now more than ever is a time to be really loud and proud this month,” she says. “It’s just an important time for everybody everywhere, and especially in our neighborhood, to be supporting drag performers and the queer community.”
The event will feature a range of D.C.’s drag artists: “drag queens, drag kings, drag things,” as Wyand puts it, in an effort to showcase what drag can look like outside of television.
He and Atha-Simonton drew inspiration from the joy of last year’s Queer Beer Festival at The Wharf. They’re also aiming to replicate the popularity of the Hill Center’s annual Family Day, an all-day festival featuring stands and performances.
Perhaps in time, Atha-Simonton adds, the ExtravaGAYza could become a yearly event, too.
She wants it to serve as a point of contact for the local queer community to familiarize themselves not just with one another, but also with the resources available to them. In addition to art booths, groups like the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs and The Becoming Fund — which supports D.C.-area trans and gender non-conforming drag artists’ social and medical transitions — will attend.
“It’s partly a celebration of artists, but also resources,” Atha-Simonton says. “As a member of the queer community in D.C., I can also speak to how you don’t realize how many resources there are for you.”
With a pay-what-you-can ticketing scale, she’s hoping the event feels financially accessible. People of all ages can enjoy activities from bracelet-making with Drag Story Hour to browsing for art, she says.
Oftentimes younger people haven’t heard of the Hill Center, Wyand points out, so he’s excited to meet new audiences through the ExtravaGAYza.
“It’d be great to see more and more and more queer-centered events coming into the Hill Center,” he says. “Just really opening up that space to the community will be a great starting point.”
The Hill Center’s Dragathon ExtravaGAYza will take place June 18 from 4-7 p.m. See more details here.
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