LGBTQ Family Night at the Washington Auto Show — Gurl!
I caught up with William West Hopper, one of the event leaders, after the Washington Auto Show to talk about the LGBTQ Family Night, which occurred on 1 February 2018.
What’s the concept for the event? When did it begin?
"LGBTQ Family Night was originally designed last year to be an opportunity for the LGBT community to come out to the Washington Auto Show, and feel as if they are a part of the overall Washington DC family. This is especially important “since the political climate of the country was changing toward less inclusion.” “This year we added to our sponsors and attracted more attendees.”
How many attended?
“I would say we had 150 in total attendance, some came to the show and just stopped in, while others came and partied through the night with Toyota/Lexus who hosted the afterparty”.
What are some of the highlights from the event?
"Corey Proffitt and Peace Naksomboon from Toyota really came through with complementary tickets to the show, wearable swag and the brand hosted the cozy afterparty at Acadiana."
“I was very pleased that people came in from as far away as Ohio, New Hampshire, New York State, and southern Virginia to attend the event. It became a big event with the Facebook Online National Group "The Car Gays" as well a the "TCG - DMV" our local chapter of The Car Gays.”
“Attendees shared with me that they felt that the show appreciated them and that having a dedicated LGBTQ Family Night at the Washington Auto Show made them feel included by not only by the show but the automotive brands. As they spoke to reps from the car companies on the show floor and they were warmly welcomed as a community.”
“I was also very pleased that the DC MPD LGBTQ Liaison Unit joined us” as a direct result of having Arlington County Police Officer Matt Rihl involved in the event planning. Rihl encouraged me to make this event happen last year. He is a big automotive enthusiast. He and his partner, Nelson, were shown, courtesy of Getty images, in a lot of the papers around the country as the face of the DC LGBTQ Pride Festival, as he always is there as a local LGBTQ Police officer in uniform.
The tire pressure gauge inspired boutonnières created and crafted by Ron Shake from Beyond Asian Antiques & Floral in McLean were “something very cool.” Hopper found that using these lapel floral corsages were a great way to show who in the group are sponsors and key event organizers, giving folks someone to ask questions of.
What does next year look like?
“I want to keep it as an informal gathering of folks who want to do the auto show as a group, with friends, meet new friends, etc. We normally have a couple of relationships that come out of the event! I really do not want to grow it out of proportion, just make it a comfortable gay place for our car enthusiast and non-car enthusiasts to come and enjoy the Washington Auto Show, our hometown auto show.
“For sure we want more women to attend,” getting them out is not always easy to any event. “I have reached out to a number of local community leaders in the Lesbian community, they all say the same thing, it is hard to get the gals out as a group”. Hopper was pleased to see the number of women who attended this year.
“Next year I really want to bring in a Gay Automotive Celebrity to speak. Last year we had Steven Petrow join us as a guest. He is a freelance journalist who is known as Mister Manners, and a regular contributor to the Washington Post, North Carolina Public Radio, The New York Times, USA Today, Parade Magazine and others. He is a sane voice for our community in a world that seems to be scarce on that important aspect at the moment.”
“I would like to bring in Donald Osborne from Leno's Garage (and Donald Osborne himself fame). He is an Alfa owner, so he would be great to present something at the show in the afternoon about classic car ownership and enthusiasm. … Donald is a great entertainer. He and his husband have been together for like 40 years.”
“…..Or maybe Jason Cammissa…. Another big automotive celeb in the straight world, probably more so than the gay world. He almost joined us, then due to filming schedules could not. Which broke a number of hearts of our DC Car Gays, as he is not only a hottie, but he can tear apart an engine with the best of them.”
“The Washington Auto Show has already invited us back for the 2019 show, which will be held in April next year. Being a homosexual and an automotive enthusiast are not mutually exclusive but rather bring together the fact that gays like cars. We are not only out of the closet now, we can be out of the garage too!”
William West Hopper is also the President of the Washington Automotive Press Association. Check out another interview I did with him from the Washington Auto Show floor here. All images are by Bonnie Moret.