Nearly 2,000 people are expected to converge on Reading next weekend — not to hit the sales displays at the region’s famous outlet stores, but rather to display their own LGBT pride at Reading’s third-annual Pride celebration.
The festival will run from noon-6 p.m. July 19 at Centre Park, Douglas Street and Centre Avenue.
In addition to uniting the LGBT community in the immediate Reading area, Tadd Casner, promotions director for the event, said the festival has drawn diverse crowds from Lancaster, Allentown, Philadelphia and other locales throughout the state.
“It’s always a real mixed crowd,” he said. “We’ve had people there who are in high school all the way up to senior citizens. And we get men, women, transgender people. It’s a good mix of all types of people in the community.”
This is the first year that the event will feature a headline entertainer: British singer Maxine Nightingale, who rose to fame with her 1970s hit “Right Back Where We Started From.”
Singer Tom Goss and several other entertainers and drag performers will also take the stage during the event.
Casner said more than 85 organizations, artisans and vendors will set up shop at the festival, not only selling merchandise but also inviting the crowd to get involved in numerous community causes.
To defray costs for the festival, the organizing committee hosted several fundraisers throughout the year, which Casner said were fortunately not heavily impacted by the economic downturn.
“Our first Gay Bingo was poorly attended, but we are planning on doing it again next year so hopefully that will go better. And we hosted one of our biggest fundraisers at a Victorian mansion in the area and about 100 people came out for that, so that was pretty successful and helpful,” he said. “We also have a person on our committee in charge of fundraising who’s been doing well with corporate donations. So despite the economy, we’ve gotten a lot of support.”
Casner noted that while Reading Pride offers high-quality entertainment and activities, it’s more laidback than Philly Pride.
“It’s a smaller venue than Philadelphia’s Pride and a lot less hectic,” he said. “It’s right in the Gayborhood area in Reading, which is in the historic district, so it’s a beautiful neighborhood. Centre Park is totally shaded so it’s nice and cool and relaxing. You still get that mixed crowd and great entertainment, but it’s something different in a nice, relaxed setting.”
Admission is $2 and a trolley will run between an off-site parking lot and the park.
For more information on the festival, visit www.readingpridecelebration.com.