RICHMOND, Va. -- Come September 25, Brown’s Island in Richmond will not host 40,000 people this year.
Virginia Pride Director James Millner broke the news on Thursday that VA Pridefest 2021 has been postponed due to concerns about a surge of COVID-19 cases.
“This is not the outcome that we had hoped for,” Millner said. “We started looking very closely at modeling and projections from UVA that showed the current surge will peak about the time of our festival.”
Millner, who also serves as program director for Diversity Richmond, said their decision was two-fold as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise.
“First and foremost, our concern is for the health and safety of our community, not just the LGBTQ community, but Richmond as a whole,” he explained.
VA Pridefest also generates thousands of dollars for the LGBTQ non-profit to give back to Central Virginia.
“We were at a point where we had to sign tens of thousands of dollars of contracts for entertainers, logistics, support systems and everything else for the event and we realized we may never get some of that money back if we committed,” Millner stated.
Dr. Carlton Stadler, a leader in a local emergency room, is a member of the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians.
“I think this was probably the right decision, but certainly heartbreaking,” Dr. Stadler said. “They asked themselves the question: is this public gathering worth the risk? Is it worth the risk of concern of loss of life? And I think we all agree that it’s not.”
Virginia Pride and Diversity Richmond began planning for an in-person event in early June when many COVID-19 restrictions on events were lifted.
Organizers were hopeful that this year's event would be bigger and better than ever after COVID canceled last year's event.
Dr. Stadler urges families to get vaccinates against the virus, wear a mask and get a booster shot when it is their turn.
“I anticipate we are going to see a few more cancellations before this is done and possibly even more into the fall,” he explained.
Organizers said the decision to postpone the event was not made lightly. Virginia Pride said that it plans to still hold smaller events during the month of September at which attendance can be limited and proof of vaccinations or masks can be required.
“In a very short period of time, we were able to raise record amounts of money, secure phenomenal entertainment acts and plan an event of which our community and the entire Richmond Region would have been proud,” Millner explained. “Our preparation puts us on solid footing as we postpone the festival to 2022 when we hope to hold it in June as part of the national observation of LGBTQ Pride Month. This has long been a goal of ours, and this just may give us that opportunity.”