Drag queen Sonique admits she was nervous about appearing in last year’s PRIDE Cape Coral parade.
She’d never been a parade marshal before. And besides, drag queens are used to performing in smoky bars at night, not waving from a car in broad daylight.
But then Sonique got out there and started waving to the crowd in downtown Cape Coral. That changed everything.
“It was pretty cool,” Sonique says. “And it was nice to see the people that were waving back and smiling and just enjoying it.
“It’s just colorful people celebrating and bringing their community together and saying, you know, we can all eat at the same table. We can all get along together. … It’s about all people coming together and celebrating everyone for being themselves.”
Now the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestant is back Saturday to sing and dance at the second-annual LGBT pride festival. The event features live performances, a tutu drag race, food trucks, drink tents, vendors, an after party and — the following day — an outdoor Sunday brunch.
Sonique won’t be the only celebrity appearing at the event. Other performers include fellow “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestant Laganja Estranja and local “The Voice” contestant Sheena Brook. Actor Sammie Cimarelli from the Netflix show “The Circle” will be this year’s grand marshal.
The annual PRIDE Cape Coral is organized by the South Cape Hospitality and Entertainment Association (SCHEA). It was about time the Cape had its own LGBT pride event, says SCHEA president Shelly Walton.
“We didn’t have one,” Walton says. “And we were probably one of the largest cities around that didn’t have one.”
The inaugural event turned out to be a huge success, she says. An estimated 5,000 people showed up last year for the parade and other activities.
“Last year was incredible,” Walton says. “Everybody was just so nice and so happy and so grateful to us. It was such a great feeling.”
David Del Rio, 43, of Cape Coral showed up last year wearing a homemade rainbow-fringe shirt, a rainbow mustache and a sparkly ponytail. He said it was his way of “showing up and showing out.”
“There are people who are a little too introverted, or they couldn’t leave their houses this way,” Del Rio told The News-Press. “They are not allowed to express themselves fully, so I like to do it for them.”
Mike Greenwell, 48, said last year’s fest was his first time attending an LGBT pride event, but he hoped the event would become an annual thing. It helps get rid of negative stereotypes about the LGBT community.
“We’re all the same,” the Cape resident said. “It’s good to see everybody out here supporting each other.”
Walton says she’s excited about this year’s lineup, including the return of Sonique. “She was amazing. She’s beautiful and talented and a great singer and performer.”
The drag queen — who took her stage name from the British singer known for the hit “It Feels So Good” —will perform several times Saturday, singing original songs such as “Hey Hater” and the bittersweet single “Just Thinking.” “People can expect more glamour, more dance beats,” Sonique says.
Laganja Estranja, who reached eighth place on season six of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” says audiences will see a high-energy drag performance with original songs and more of her usual “stunts and shenanigans. “I think fans can expect a good ‘ol spectacle.”
Estranja performs all over the country, but she says there’s something special about LGBT pride events.
“It’s a different type of celebration,” she says. “It’s not just a regular night. It’s not just a ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ viewing party.
“Everybody of all walks of life and ages gets to come together and celebrate being proud. I feel very lucky and thankful that I get to do what I love, which is dancing and spreading positivity and acceptance of yourself.”
Connect with this reporter: Charles Runnells (Facebook), @charlesrunnells (Twitter), @crunnells1 (Instagram)
If you go
What: PRIDE Cape Coral
When: 3-10 p.m. Saturday, with live entertainment from 7-10 p.m. There’s also a Sunday brunch with seatings at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Where: Southeast 47th Terrace in downtown Cape Coral, between Southeast Ninth Place and Southeast 11th Place.
Admission: Free. Tickets for the Sunday brunch are $25.