Drag queens parade down 17th Street in annual race

Men dressed in drag costumes ranging from a cheerleader to a giant banana paraded down 17th Street Tuesday evening in the 20th anniversary of the annual “17th Street High Heel Race.”

Thousands attended the “17th Street High Heel Race,” which was sponsored by JR’s Bar and Grill. The race began at 9 p.m. and was preceded by a parade of the 30 contestants, which blocked traffic between S and P streets. This year, a group of drag cheerleaders dressed in glittering gold costumes warmed up the crowd with choreographed dance moves and loud music.

Jason Hanson, 37, a manager at JR’s, said the bar loses money sponsoring the event every year but keeps doing it because of the event’s history.

He said the winner’s prize for winning is, “the joy of knowing sh’ . he won.”

This year’s winner was Ron Brown, who said he has won eight of the 11 high heel races he has participated in. Dressed in a blonde wig and Dorothy costume with black heels, he won the race in about 90 seconds. After winning, Brown went to JR’s where he paraded around the bar with a large silver trophy topped with a high-heeled woman’s shoe.

Many of the participants in the race walked instead of running. A man in a pink princess dress strolled down the strip smoking a cigarette and waving to spectators. In last place was a man dressed as the Washington Monument, complete with red blinking lights at the top.

Senior Ryan Liddell attended the event dressed as Paris Hilton but did not compete in the race. His costume included a blonde wig, a pink mini-skirt and a tote with a stuffed animal imitating Hilton’s Chihuahua “Tinkerbell.” He said he came to preview his Halloween costume.

“It’s an excuse to dress up as a girl and to show all my friends that bitch about how hard it is to be a girl how I can dress like a girl,” Liddell said.

After the race Liddell joined the contestants and the rest of the bystanders at JR’s outside beer tent. A group encouraging safe sex passed out condoms outside the tent, and others distributed stickers supporting Democratic mayoral nominee Adrian Fenty.

Liddell said drinking with heels on was the challenge of the evening.

“Do you know how hard it is to drink in heels?” he said. “I’m like falling over.”

Other GW students went to the event to watch the parade. Senior Katie Harter said she has gone to the race annually since freshman year.

“This is my favorite thing that happens in D.C.,” she said.

Junior Turner Payne, who went to the race for the first time Tuesday, said she was impressed by the physique of the men in drag.

“I can’t believe this,” she said. “All these men have tighter butts and nicer legs than I do.”

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