Celebrating Community for 30 years
By Ron DeHarte
From an evening musical and house parties to becoming the second largest event in Palm Springs, Pride has always brought the community together.
The Greater Palm Springs Pride organization commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion on New York’s Christopher Street and celebrates the advances made toward achieving full equality for all with the annual Pride Week Celebration. The first Pride celebration in Palm Springs was organized 30 years ago and advertised as “Sizzle”, an evening full of laughs, fun, enjoyment, and just plain feeling good about yourself and who you are. In 1986, the Desert Business Association Pride Committee produced the sold-out evening event, showcasing the talents of local entertainers, at the Hilton Rivera Resort Grand Ballroom. Sizzle 2 followed the next year.
Dr. Barry Woods was the Pride Committee Chairman in 1988; and, he was instrumental in bringing Eartha Kitt to Palm Springs to perform at the Pride event held at the Radisson. The next day, a Country Fair hosted by the Desert Women’s Association was held at The Villa. The following year, the new chairman Dr. Herb Lazenby successfully secured Charles Pierce to perform at the 1989 Pride celebration. Pierce presented a sensational show of female impersonation at the McCallum Theater. Herb and his partner Thom co-hosted a fabulous reception bringing the community together and celebrating Pride at their desert villa.
Starting in 1990, Pride events were organized under the direction of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance of the Desert and Greg Pettis served a two-year term as president. The first Pride parade was organized in 1992 and held over Memorial Day weekend at Demuth Park.
It was under the direction of President Richard Black in 1995 that the Pride celebration moved from the hot summer months to November. Black served as president from 1993 to 1996. It was during this time that the organization started promoting Palm Springs and Palm Springs Pride in other cities. During Black’s term, the Pride board also started to lobby city council to stage the Pride Parade on Palm Canyon Dr.
Richard was responsible for aligning Palm Springs Lesbian and Gay Pride with C.A.P.I. (California Association of Pride), an umbrella organization of the Pride groups throughout the state. He served as Vice President of C.A.P.I. from 1994-1995 and President in 1995-1996 when the organization became C.A.P.I. (Consolidated Association of Pride) to include Arizona, Hawaii, Mexico, Nevada, and later New Mexico, Texas, and Utah.1996, Richard attended the International Association of Pride Organizers annual conference where he promoted the global pride slogan, “Pride Without Borders” which was accepted by the international body and used worldwide.
Cathy “C.J.” Pino served as secretary in 1996 and president in 1997 and 1998. She was at the helm when the Palm Springs City Council, led by republican mayor William G. Kleindienst, approved moving the Pride parade to Palm Canyon Drive in 1997. The parade had a new home on Palm Canyon and the festival continued as the Arenas Road Block Party.
Pride hasn’t always been welcome. In 1998, because of their anti-homosexual beliefs, members of Desert Chapel congregation marched on city hall protesting the upcoming Pride event. The Pride events continued to grow and in 1998 the celebration offered complimentary bus service. Participants could catch a free ride to the festival location from any Cathedral City and Palm Desert gay bar or hotel location and avoid the congestion and parking challenges downtown.
The 1999 Pride began with the San Diego Gay Band marching down Arenas and onto the festival grounds. In the center of the street was a “Dance Arena” with high energy, non-stop music, go-go dancers, and flaggers performing atop platforms. Saturday night searchlights illuminated the sky from Arenas and Encilia.
In 2000 a critical issue arose regarding the location for the Pride festival. The Arenas Road/Marquis gardens location had been ideal because of the high concentration of gay businesses and residents in the area. Jack Schloeder, Pride president, was unable to procure an acceptable agreement with the landlord for the lot before the November event. A concrete dance floor had been installed for the White Party, which would represent a loss of 30 vendor spaces and create a significant financial loss for the Pride organization. Three locations were reviewed: the Convention Center, Arenas Road area, and the stadium. The Convention Center was simply too expensive. The Arenas Road/Marquis gardens loss of potential revenue space was prohibitive. The Pride Board vote was unanimous to change location in 2000 to the Palm Springs Stadium, in Sunrise Park, and many critics believed that the move was a bad decision. The 2000 Pride event was a success and the stadium remained home to the Pride festival through 2013. In 2014 the Pride Festival returned to downtown, however, this time the festival was held on Palm Canyon Drive in the heart of Palm Springs.
The primary focus of the Pride Committee continues to promote education and inclusiveness and the celebration of diversity throughout the Coachella Valley. A secondary benefit of the Pride organization’s work is the significant economic impact Pride Week has on the region. During the year the Pride Committee works with other community organizations and volunteers to produce a variety of events such as; the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast, the Pride Honors Awards, the Pet Pride Parade, mentorships with other Pride organizations, George Zander Candlelight Vigil, and the Arenas Rd. Block Party. Palm Springs Pride is committed to supporting LGBT youth in the Coachella Valley. In 2015 the Pride Committee was able to raise and donate $20,416 in grants from the Pride Youth Fund and another $30,000 in 2016. The grants supported grassroots youth engagement activities throughout the Coachella valley schools through mentorship, community engagement, team building and anti-bullying efforts and to create safe and affirming opportunities for LGBT youth.
Fundraising is done throughout the year and culminates during Palm Springs Pride Week. The 30th Anniversary Pride Week multi-day celebration of diversity, inclusivity, art, fashion and culture runs from November 1-6 and includes 25 official events including the Trans Rally, Dyke March and Rally, Broadway Drag pageant, L-Fund Women’s dance, pool parties, the Arenas Road Block party, two-day festival, parade, and the George Zander Candlelight Vigil and March in memory of all the victims of hate crimes.