Angie Henle was just a spectator when she partied last year at the Baltimore Pride Block Party. But when the signature event of Baltimore Pride 2005 got going last night, Henle could say that, for a few moments at least, she was the life of the party.
Henle, 20, who lives in Dundalk, beat out a legion of performers last month in an American Idol-like contest to earn the right to sing in front of thousands at the gay, lesbian and transsexual celebration in Mount Vernon.
"This year I get to experience this at a whole 'nother level," Henle said.
The city's 30th annual Pride celebration, which kicked off Thursday night with an interfaith service, continued yesterday with more than 50 groups participating in the Pride Parade up Charles Street and a huge crowd showing up for last night's block party at Eager and Charles streets.
It will end with a flourish today at the seven-hour Pride Festival at Druid Hill Park.
Drag queen and singer RuPaul Charles headlined last night's event, but lesser- known performers traveled far and wide to take part.
A Seattle woman who referred to herself only as Miss Indigo Blue was there to perform a burlesque act based on Wonder Woman.
"It takes an American superhero and turns her into a lesbian dancer," she said. "I mean, who doesn't consider every lesbian stripper an American hero?"
Many performers come to Pride events nationwide on their own dime.
"There's not other way to get exposed to thousands of people," said Androgene, a singer from Los Angeles.
Originally from Nigeria, Androgene took a red-eye flight from the West Coast and arrived in Baltimore at 6:30 yesterday morning. She was to perform last night and today.
Androgene planned to sing her hard-edged dance music last night and "ethnic soul" today, for the "more mellow crowd."
She performs at 15 to 20 similar events a year but never before in Baltimore.
The scene in Mount Vernon came across to her as "very multicultural, a very diverse crowd."
Local gay community leaders see this weekend as an opportunity to show how receptive Baltimore is to diversity, which they said could lead to gains socially and financially.
"When people come in and see good arts, a good gay community ... if they can see that this community can thrive, then others can as well," said Bryan Stark, the chair of the city's taskforce on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues.
"The cities that promote diversity gain benefits. ... You don't have to be a first-tier cosmopolitan city to do that."