“This was the Katrina of gay prides,” joked Jade Esteban Estrada.
Estrada, an award-winning singer and entertainer, served as the emcee for the 2011 Delaware Pride Festival, which took place on Saturday at Cape Henlopen State Park, near Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
At 11 a.m., gray clouds and cold temperatures marked the start of the festival, which was celebrating its 15th year, and kept attendance numbers low throughout the day. Steady rains and strong winds moved into the area by mid-afternoon and most of the vendors left.
By 4 p.m. only a handful of diehard attendees huddled together under a small pavilion to watch the entertainers. Following featured singer Kelly King’s performance, Estrada told the crowd that the festival was ending early but that the entertainment portion would continue at the Atlantic Sands Hotel in downtown Rehoboth Beach.
“We had the space available and were happy to be supportive of the community,” said Christopher Guidone, the Sands’ director of sales and marketing.
The Sands’ staff and festival volunteers transformed the hotel’s restaurant into a makeshift cabaret space, which allowed for the remaining featured entertainers to continue their performances.
Word of the relocation quickly spread and the attendees that were shuttled from the festival were joined by dozens of others, who where happy to be inside and dry.
Singer Pepper Mashay got the crowd back into the groove with a set of her signature dance hits. She was followed by comedian and singer Jonny McGovern, who was joined by entertainer and transsexual community activist Calpernia Addams.
“I had never been to Delaware before but I came and refused to let the rain rain on my gay parade,” said McGovern.
McGovern’s comments echoed the feeling of many of the attendees.
“Despite the rain, everyone has been having a great time and lots of fun,” said Andrew Zeltt, who previously served as a board member of Delaware Pride and has watched it grow significantly over the years.
Zeltt traveled from Wilmington, Del., to be part of the anniversary event and to honor Delaware’s recent approval of same-sex civil unions. In April, Zeltt plans to have his civil union ceremony with his partner of 14 years.
All thoughts of the bad weather outside disappear for Zeltt and the other attendees, when Grammy nominated singer Taylor Dayne made her appearance and closed out the evening
Unfortunately, with the decline in attendance, also came a decline in revenue.
“We are definitely going to take a very big [financial] hit,” said Steve Newman, the current president of Delaware Pride.
Donations to help cover Delaware Pride’s projected losses and to help support next year’s festival can be made online at DelawarePride.org.