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Pride includes music, karaoke, block party

Since its beginning 29 years ago, the annual Baltimore Pride Festival has been known as an event that's chockablock with live music, high-energy shows and over-the-top spectacles.

So it's only fitting that the gay community's yearly party is now being touted as a "nightclub without walls," said festival co-chairman Scott Baum.

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"It's a time for us to literally dance in the streets. It truly is just going to be a lot of fun," Baum said of the two-day happening, which kicks off at 5 p.m. Saturday with a loud-and-proud parade on Charles Street.

The procession of bikers, floats, drag queens and kings, marching bands and dancers will disband just in time for Pride's nighttime street carnival, a block party surrounding the Hippo and Grand Central clubs at the corners of Charles and Eager streets.

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Performers include Crystal Waters ("Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)") and Ultra Nate.

To further solidify the new club theme, Baum and the rest of the planning team have expanded Saturday's event to include interactive stations (a mechanical bull ride and a street-level karaoke stage) that, like the atmosphere at some nightspots, can transform spectators into participants.

Starting at 11 a.m. Sunday, the party continues in Druid Hill Park with an hours-long festival of music and food that's expected to draw thousands from greater Baltimore, Washington and Pennsylvania.

And though the celebration targets and benefits the region's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community (sponsorship proceeds go to the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore), Baum said everyone is encouraged to attend and enjoy the free weekend of music and revelry.

"It's not just a good time for the gay and lesbian community. The celebrations are very welcoming of all people. And we hope that a lot of our straight allies will come," he noted.

That's because the annual event is also a chance for those concerned with issues of tolerance and diversity to stand for their beliefs.

"It galvanizes the community, and the result is a real party ... and a lot of enlightenment," he said.

Baltimore Pride takes place Saturday and Sunday at locations around the city. Festivities kick off at 5 p.m. Saturday with a parade on Charles Street. The block party, which begins immediately after the parade, will be held on Eager Street between Charles and Cathedral streets. On Sunday, the event begins at 11 a.m. in Druid Hill Park, 2600 Madison Ave. Admission is free for all events. Call 410-837-5445 or visit www.baltimorepride.org.

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Pride highlights

The following is a list of just a few who'll perform at the two-day event:

Saturday Block Party (performances will begin at 6:15 p.m.)

* Miss Gay America 2002 Sabrina White

* Drag queen Vanity Starr

* Local drag king group the Charm City Boys

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* Pop diva Crystal Waters, known for her 1994 dance hit, "100% Pure Love"

Sunday Festival (performances begin at 11:30 a.m.)

* Singer-songwriter Paul Iwancio

* Country singer Carl Long

* R&B; performer Saturn

* Singer Ultra Nate


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