Attend Pride again for the very First Time!

By Ron deHarte

The anticipation is building and the buzz is full of excitement for this year’s Pride celebration schedule for the Greater Palm Springs region November 7-9, 2014. Changes underway for this year’s Pride celebration include a new festival location, free admission and a new parade route. The Pride committee hopes that the new format will be a shot in the arm for the mature and established twenty-eight year old event and result in increased participation and greater awareness of the region’s LGBT community.

The two-day festival will enjoy significantly greater visibility as it moves out from behind the walls at Sunrise Stadium to the world famous Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs and the Parade’s new starting point will now incorporate in the Uptown Design District, which is home to cafés and bars and many gay owned vintage and modern furniture stores, fashion boutiques, art galleries, and clothing shops which celebrate the city’s famed mid-century modernist roots. Through the years, the Pride Parade, which circled Demuth Park in the early-90s, has enjoyed high levels of awareness as it traveled through the heart of the city of Palm Springs since the first community-based Veterans Day and Festival of Lights Parades were created.

The renewal of Pride in Coachella Valley is being ushered in under the banner of “I am Pride: Stonewall 45” which was selected as the theme for the 2014 Pride event by volunteers and community stakeholders in January. The two-prong theme was selected to observe the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and reflect on the impact the fight for equality is having on the LGBT community around the world. “I am Pride” is an affirmation of an individual’s stance against discrimination and support of equal rights, sexual diversity and gender expression.

The June 28, 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York’s Greenwich Village set off the LGBT civil rights movement. Stonewall began as a spontaneous act of defiance forty-five years ago by a small group of LGBT protestors in New York’s Greenwich Village. In the early morning hours of June 28, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar frequented by LGBT patrons. Such raids were not uncommon at the time as the police often harassed gay establishments, arrested patrons on indecency charges for such acts as kissing or wearing attire traditionally associated with the opposite gender. The Stonewall Inn, in particular, was a favorite target for police raids, as it tended to draw patrons from more vulnerable populations such as African-Americans and Latinos.

“I am Pride” is a powerful declaration that means something different to each individual, but collectively it speaks to our empowered community that has courageously fought for equality in the last forty-five years. It’s been a long road to get where we are and Pride remains an important opportunity for the LGBT community to be visible locally and globally. When we are visible we raise awareness and we change hearts and minds.

Yes, Pride makes a difference. When Michael Sam kisses his boyfriend on television and there is a collective heterosexual privilege gasp we understand the LGBT community needs greater visibility and that the fight for equality continues locally and globally.

No matter how many parades, marches or protests you have participated in the past, this year’s Pride events offer an opportunity for our united community to be visible and declare to the world how fabulous we are – every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender one of us. We are more than a stereotype. We are LGBT and we live next door.

The 2014 Palm Springs Pride community grand marshals Alexis Ortega and Thomas Smith are recognized for their positive and lasting impact on the community. They represent two generations of volunteerism and service. Alexis Ortega is part of a new generation that’s dedicated to building a stronger and more vibrant community. She believes, “Pride is about sharing and celebrating our love for ourselves and each other, and showcasing a world in which we are all accepting of our real selves. For a few weekends each year, Pride gives all of us the opportunity to revel in a reality where our differences are celebrated – where it doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, or if you identify as queer, bisexual, trans, etc. It’s an opportunity to shine a jubilant spotlight on our identities and rejoice in the hope that one day, we can do that any and every day, everywhere.”

Thomas Smith is recognized for thirty years of community service, leadership in the leather community and as an award-winning author. He feels, “Pride recognizes and celebrates the impact that gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, intersex and queer questioning men, women, and teens have had on the world. Pride celebrates being true to yourself! It is a time to remind others to be honest about yourself to the world on your own terms. It is a time to celebrate the contributions that many gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual individuals have made to the world. It is a time to be PROUD!”

After thirteen years at Sunrise Stadium, the Pride Festival was busting at the seams. We started looking for a new home in 2011. Over the last four years, plans were created and options were explored to stage the festival at the O’Donnell Golf Course, in the Spa Casino parking lot, on South Palm Canyon Dr. and on North Palm Canyon Dr. As the Pride committee worked on a multi-year plan and addressed the financial impact of moving the festival we introduced a new event to test the downtown waters.

In 2011 we created the Arenas Road Block Party. The block party was intended to be a small event for up to four thousand people on Saturday night of Pride weekend. Within hours of opening 8,500 people passed through the gates. Feedback from participants and stakeholders was overwhelmingly positive. Over the next two years, while the Pride Festival continued at the stadium, the Pride committee added additional events downtown to continue testing the waters. Last year 18,000 people attended the night block party. By 2013, the evolution of Palm in the desert was underway.

The merchants on Arenas Road supported the Pride committee’s vision back in 2011 when we first approached them about the idea of the Arenas Road Block Party.   The downtown business association Main Street Palm Springs offered encouragement and support from the very beginning. The city, who is a major sponsor of the annual Pride celebration, made it official on June 4th, 2014 when the city council voted unanimously to approve the move downtown and the new parade route.

This is certainly a year to celebrate. Come out and enjoy our region’s Pride Festival and fabulous Parade again for the very first time. From all accounts it’s going to be a very big year. The Psychedelic Furs headline Sunday, while Amanda Lepore, London based Frankmusik, and Icelandic musical group Steed Lord take the stage on Saturday. LGBT artists include national touring pop, rock and hip hop performers: Jeremiah Clark, X-Factor’s Lori Moore, Josh Zuckerman, Aiden James, Seattle based Jack Mozie and the desert’s own Blake Lansing.

Downtown Palm Springs will come alive on November 8th when the giant palm trees that shade the street as you stroll during the day are washed in rainbow colors when the sun goes down. Disco balls will float from the sky at Arenas and Palm Canyon and Walter the massive two-story extra-large Volkswagen bus art car from Burning Man will be a sight to see. Another art car attraction coming direct from Burning Man and Bonnaroo is the two-story DJ stage Kalliope at Tahquitz and Palm Canyon.

Join us, bring your friends and family and together we will celebrate LGBT people in all our diversity. There are twenty official events designed to bring the community together in a positive and fun atmosphere. With cutting edge stages and over 100 performances in six venues the 2014 Pride in Palm Springs will be a weekend to remember.