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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Officials to clear homeless encampment near campus in May
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • March 4, 2024

Performers find their footing at annual high heel race

Kaiden Yu | Photographer
A racer dashes down 17th Street as a unicorn sprints to narrow the lead.

There were no divas down at the 36th-annual 17th Street High Heel Race.

This joyous tradition began back in 1986, when several drag queens raced down 17th Street in high heels from JR’s Bar to Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse, as part of a bet in which the winner would get $100 covered from their bar tab. An adored D.C. tradition, the 17th Street High Heel Race grew in size and since 2018 has been sponsored by Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office.

This year, Bowser attended the event and rallied the participants just two minutes before the race began with a speech talking about the necessity to discuss LGBTQ+ needs.

“I’m Muriel Bowser, your mayor, and welcome to the gayest city in the world,” she said.

Some spectators eagerly lined up behind the barricades lining the street two and a half hours before the race started. Other viewers were hanging out at packed bars and restaurants along 17th Street, wearing Halloween costumes, skirts and heels, while others had just come from work in their business casual attire.

Lexi Critchett | Photographer

Jerry Wilmack, a first-time attendee of the race, was especially excited to see Bowser and Karamo Brown, a star of the Netflix reality show “Queer Eye.” Brown participated in the race and congratulated the winner, John Kim, on stage. 

Before the race began, drag performers lip-synced and danced to “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston on a glittering stage at the starting line. 

As participants prepared for the race, they strutted down the route, showing off their costumes, dramatically posing, dancing, taking pictures and talking with audience members. The runners dressed to impress and scare, donning a variety of costumes from horror icon M3gan, to bridesmaids, ghosts, mimes and more.

Cotton Candy, a longtime participant in the race, caught everyone’s eye as he strutted down the street in thigh-high silver boots, black sparkly shorts, a black corset and yellow wig. This run marks Candy’s eighth sashay down 17th Street. Candy said the event is a celebration of LGBTQ+ pride but also has a deeper impact on D.C.’s LGBTQ+ community and speaks to the need for love and inclusivity.

“I come out here because there is no discrimination,” Candy said. “It’s about love, it’s about laughter, it’s smiles, it’s every gender, every race, every culture, every creed, every origin, every sex, every religion. They’re all out here, and I love that.” 

Lexi Critchett | Photographer

The race was short as drag queens and other participants sprinted down the street narrowly balanced on their high heels. By the time the race ended at JR’s Bar, the racers were squatting on the ground and fanning themselves off.  

But luckily for Kim, the winner of the race, this competition was no big feat. As Kim sprinted down the street in a Patrick Star costume, complete with a pink bodysuit, fishnet tights, a green skirt and black thigh-high heels, they ran through the rainbow ribbon, arms flailing in the air at the end of the route and met the thunderous cheers of the crowd.

Spectators and drag queens alike sang and danced, bobbing their heads, swaying their arms and frolicking around to pop hits by queer artists.

Brooke Pinto, the D.C. Councilmember for Ward 2, spoke on stage before the race began, celebrating the District’s openness and encouraging the crowd to have a fun and safe night.

Kaiden Yu | Photographer

“This is such an amazing tradition for our entire community and Ward 2, we’re so proud to be the home of so many LGBTQ residents,” Pinto said. “It really demonstrates not just our inclusivity but our love and celebration of pride, and I’m thrilled to be here tonight.”

Audience members continued to celebrate the event at the bars lining 17th Street into the early hours of Wednesday morning. Whether the crowd was made up of people who had staked out at the barricade to watch the race or met up with a friend on a whim for a fun time, throngs of queens dressed in knee-high red-leather boots, rag doll costumes and light-up golden sneakers created a night of jaunty performances and outfits you’d be hard pressed to see in other marathons.


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