The annual Southern Fried Queer Pride Festival offers an inclusive, diverse lineup

Southern Fried Queer Pride takes place at Eyedrum Gallery and its adjoining parking lot, June 23-26. (Courtesy of Avery Willis)

Pride Month celebrations worldwide are in full force, including in Georgia. The annual Southern Fried Queer Pride Festival is this weekend, and it begins the evening of June 23, with attractions from drag pageants to a “Hawt Sauce” dance party, an artist market and more.

Avery Willis, the disability advocate and volunteer outreach coordinator for Southern Fried Queer Pride, joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to discuss the festivities. 

Interview highlights follow below.

Arts and advocacy with Southern Fried Queer Pride:

“Southern Fried Queer Pride started about seven years ago,” said Willis. “It was created by some Black and brown, queer and trans people here in the heart of Atlanta who wanted to see ourselves be more represented in the Pride celebrations around us. A lot of times, the faces that you see in media are more white faces or cisgender faces, and it’s very easy to feel a little lost. And Atlanta is such a home to Black ingenuity and Black creation and art, and we wanted to make sure that we are showing ourselves in the same way.”

They continued, “We have our home chapter here in Atlanta, we have a satellite chapter in Durham, North Carolina, and we’ve worked with artists all across the Southeast in the United States. Our festival is our biggest event every year. It brings in over a thousand attendees every time, and the rest of the year, we try to put on three to five events every month … always focused on our artists, on people in the community, bringing people together. We have galleries; we do video screenings. We have done a tax workshop — anything that we can do to help those around us and to bring other people together.”

SFQP ’s Peach Pit Pageant:

“The theme for the Peach Pit Pageant this year, for our presentation category, is ‘Get Freaky,’ and we’re leaving that open to interpretation for our competitors, but show us what that means to you,” Willis explained. “So the competitors will have three categories: a presentation where they’ll show us a look either of their own construction or of their own design; they will have a Q&A portion, where they’ll be able to share their personality and their thoughts; and there will be a talent portion. Usually, that ends up being a lip-sync because that’s the core of what drag is, but we’ve had people do a miniature how-to on stage. We’ve had people dance. We’ve had people share art. We’ve had people do poetry. So I’m very excited to see what our competitors bring to the stage this year. “

An all-ages-inclusive queer Pride festival:

“It’s extremely difficult in the queer community to find yourself, especially when you’re younger, and a lot of queer spaces tend to be bars,” Willis said. “It’s not necessarily accessible for people who are younger, or people who are addicts or in recovery, or even people who just don’t drink. [SFQP Fest] is still a nighttime event, which isn’t always accessible for everyone, but it is the best time for our show. But we want this to be accessible to all ages because everyone deserves a chance to see art and to see themselves represented in the community, and to feel seen in that community.”

They added, “We want everyone to have the chance that we’ve all had ourselves — to walk into a space and say, I’m home.”

Southern Fried Queer Pride Festival takes place at Eyedrum Gallery and its adjoining parking lot, June 23-26. An entire line-up of festival events and workshops is available at