Savannah Pride takes over downtown again with the 19th annual Savannah Pride Festival, celebrating the diverse LGBTQ community of the Coastal Empire. The free-to-the-public street fair of music, educational workshops and presentations takes place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 27 in Ellis Square.

The weekend celebration kicks off at 7 p.m. Oct. 25 with the "Masqueerade Ball: Savannah is Burning!" at The Gingerbread House, 1921 Bull St. Modeled after the legendary drag balls of the 1980s and inspired by the recent hit FX television show, “Pose,” this party features guests in the most outrageous, sexy and fun outfits competing in categories such as “Queer Eleganza” and “Halloqween.” Participants are encouraged to create teams, or in drag ball parlance, "families." Emceeing the event will be vogueing superstar and one of the actors and dancers from “Pose,” Jason Rodriguez, aka Slim Ninja.

The festival day begins at 10 a.m. Oct. 27 with the Savannah Pride Pawrade, a chance for our furry friends to get into the Halloween spirit and strut their favorite costumes through City Market.

The day continues with the free street fair. Highlights include Drag Trolley Tours, the Mermaid Grotto photo booth, and the return of Downtown Takeover, a self-guided pub crawl beginning at noon with discounts on drinks and more at participating bars and restaurants in the area.

Savannah Pride will also be hosting a History Exhibit, a spoken word Story Stage and a Pride Health series of LGBTQ health-related panels from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 27 at Hotel Indigo, 201 W. Bay St.

Rounding out Festival Day, the Official Pride After-Party will begin at 10 p.m. Oct. 27 at Club One, 1 Jefferson St.

Savannah Pride is particularly excited to announce the Savannah Pride Prom, a special free evening for youth ages 14-20 hosted by Savannah Pride, Georgia AIDS Coalition and Stand OUT Youth, taking place after the festival at 7 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Andaz Hotel, 14 Barnard St.

This year also marks the inaugural presentation of the Leonard Matlovich Savannah Pride Award, given to a local activist who has courageously and unselfishly contributed to the LGBTQ community.

Savannah native Tech. Sgt. Leonard Matlovich was the first gay service member to purposely out himself to the military to fight their ban on gays, for which he was discharged. His fight to stay in the Air Force made him a symbol for LGBTQ rights. His tombstone, which has become a landmark destination, reads, “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

This year’s recipient is Manzana “Ms. Apple” Bryant, who helped form T.E.E. (Transgender Empowerment Education), serves on the Chatham Health Department HIV/AIDS Consortium, is outreach coordinator for Georgia AIDS Coalition and is the outreach committee chair of the First City Network board of directors.

For more information, tickets to the Masqueerade Ball and to register for the Pawrade, go to