Ben Carver’s high heels race doc showcases the joys of community in the nation’s capital

high heel race washington, DC
photo by Ted Eytan

Each year on the Tuesday before Halloween, thousands of spectators gather in the Dupont Circle gayborhood of Washington DC to watch dozens of costumed drag queens display elaborate outfits and race down 17th Street in impossibly high heels.

The first race took place in 1986 when a small group of drag queens made a spontaneous drunken sprint between JR’s bar and Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse for schnapps shots.

32 years later, the 17th Street High Heel Race has become one of the capital’s most iconic events. Bars and restaurants along the route prepare special drinks and dishes for the occasion and the crowds along the race path have increased to nearly 100,000, many of whom are visitors there just for the event.

Filmmaker Benjamin Carver has made a documentary about the history of the event, and it comes at just the right time after Individual 1 shut down the federal government, causing so many in the D.C. community to lose paychecks and morale. It is apparently back up and running, but the damage has been done.

“I made the film to celebrate my community and increase awareness of the race’s history,” says Carver, who plans to create more content about life in his city. “It’s important to archive, share and promote our history and community in this manner. In this way, art can connect our community and promote meaning in our lives.”

Check out the video here: