Fresno’s Rainbow Pride parade and festival is marking its 21st anniversary with the theme of “Legally Proud.” The theme takes into account the last year of victories in court—the overturning of California’s Prop 8 and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT).
The parade and festival will be held in Fresno’s Tower District on Saturday, June 4. The parade starts down Olive Avenue through the heart of the Tower at 10 a.m. The festival gates open at 11 a.m. A donation of $5 is suggested for entry to the festival.
Entertainment at the festival will be headlined by Dario, who performed at Pride three years ago. “We’re proud to announce the return of one of our most popular Pride headliners,” Fresno Rainbow Pride chairperson Jeff Robinson said.
“In 2008, Dario stormed the Pride stage and made a lasting impression on all who experienced one hell of a rocking, smooth, hip, with a little Latin tossed in, show. Pop with a lot of soul. He equally enjoyed the Fresno experience and insisted that Fresno would be on his current tour.” Dario’s new CD, The Upside of Down, was released in May.
For the dancers, Rainbow Pride will be hosting Unison. “What happens when you get eight-plus DJs from the best gay dance hotspots all in one place? One epic Pride dance tent,” Robinson says.
This year, XO Productions took the reins and introduces Unison at the festival. Headed up by Binx and Kudro, the dance tent will feature sets from some of Fresno’s favorite DJs representing their clubs or dance events. Everything from house to Latin to the 1980s will be offered up in the name of Pride and solidarity to make you dance.
DJ Cookee will be representing Pure, the 18+ gay dance event held every Monday at Aldo’s, as well as Surrender Sundays at the Express. DJ Dizzi, longtime resident of the Express, and DJ Fresh will also make an appearance. DJ Chris is putting down a set for the North Tower Circle, and DJ Evilclown will be representing the Circle’s monthly event Tower Extatic.
DJ Jimmy Mac is coming out for the Red Lantern. Club Legends will be offering up DJ Suzy Q, who is the featured DJ on Manic Mondays and Latin Wednesdays. The list of DJs is still growing with the goal of making this year’s dance tent a truly diverse experience for everybody.
Come kick off Pride Weekend with members of the the California legislature’s LGBT Caucus on Friday, June 3. There’ll be a meet and greet from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the downtown community art collective at 754 P St. (just north of Ventura Street across from the PG&E offices).
Parade Grand Marshals this year include Robin McGehee,
Matthew Mazzei and Andrew McIntosh. McGehee organized the statewide Meet in the Middle rally against Prop 8 and a national rally in Washington, D.C., and created the national activist group GetEqual. She led the charge against DADT, getting arrested twice for chaining herself to the White House fence. President Obama invited her to the ceremony when he signed the bill repealing DADT.
Fresno State student Mazzei created the RainbowDelegation.org in response to the suicides of LGBT youth. The organization has shipped thousands of rainbow-colored wristbands to more than 45 countries at no charge. The wristbands signify the wearers’ support for LGBT youth and anti-bullying.
McIntosh came out as gay while playing intercollegiate lacrosse in New York state. His story was featured in the New York Times and the Advocate. He now lives in Fresno, where he is coaching and attending graduate school at Fresno State.
The parade this year marks the passing of a long-time volunteer. Tom Hayhurst managed the flow of parade participants down Olive Avenue with a smile and good humor for many years. He was missing last year from his usual post in the median near the Landmark because he was too sick from cancer treatment to be there. Hayhurst died in November following a years-long battle with cancer.
For about 16 years, the festival has been laid out in an L shape at the intersection of Fulton Street and Alhambra Avenue. During all of these years, there has been a rundown city parcel that has been both an eyesore and a problem to work around. In the past, the trash bins and porta-potties were placed on this piece of land.
Last year, the Pride committee decided to turn this parcel into a green space amid all the
asphalt. Members of the committee weeded, did major trimming of some of the trees, repaired a sprinkler system, reseeded the lawn area, replanted the flower beds and added some color around two trees that face Wishon Avenue. The old rock and concrete water fountain that is no longer in working order was planted with pink, purple and white flowering petunias. Community Link also installed four flagpoles from which we flew the American flag, the state flag and two rainbow flags.
“This year,” Robinson commented, “we worked with Tree Fresno to remove a dying tree and in its place planted a tribute tree that is dedicated to all of the GLBT victims of bullying.” A dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on May 28.
This year, the committee hopes to create a green, grassy place to sit and enjoy the Pride Festival, complete with some rainbow beach umbrellas for additional shade. Future plans include benches for seating, a community art project, a solar-powered automated system for the sprinklers and the restoration of the historic rock water fountain.
Twenty-one years ago, the parade lasted a whopping 10 whole minutes and a large gathering of white-robed Klan members tried to put out a “you’re not welcome” mat here in Fresno. Now the parade is more than an hour long, the crowd numbers in the thousands and the Klan has long since departed our beloved Tower District, helped along by the queer kids who swiped the white hoods off their heads.
Over the double-decade history of Pride, Fresno and the Central Valley have witnessed its ups and downs. It split apart in the mid-1990s into two Pride events.
The original Fresno Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee went from a combined parade and festival in the Tower District to a Vintage Days type of affair without a parade on campus at Fresno State under the name of OUTfest. OUTfest lasted for two years.
At the same time, a new group, Stonewall Pride, was formed to hold the June parade and festival. During Stonewall Pride’s tenure, the event hit its high and then declined greatly and became a huge disappointment to the community due to poor management.
The United Pride Coalition took over Pride for two years and transformed the event by changing the day of the event from Sunday to Saturday and downsizing it, shortening the parade route by half a mile and making the festival much smaller but more family friendly, open and free.
In 2003, it looked as if the annual Pride event would come to an end when United Pride Coalition’s bylaws termed out all of its board members. Three months before the event was scheduled to happen, two former United Pride Coalition board members approached Community Link to step in.
Since then, the event has been known as Fresno Rainbow Pride and a combination of Community Link board members and community members at large have worked together as a committee to rebuild the Pride event into the largest one-day GLBT event in the Valley.
This will be the third year of difficult economic times. Rainbow Pride sponsors have been affected by the bad economy. Some of them have gone out of business, others have scaled back on their support and some are no longer able to join in producing the event. Many Pride events across the state are drowning in red ink or have cancelled altogether. Donations of any size are appreciated at all times and are fully tax-deductible as Community Link is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Donations by check, marked “Pride” in the memo section, may be made out to Community Link and sent to P.O. Box 4959, Fresno, CA 93744.