My weekly schedule has a bit of a flow to it lately: weekends full of dance parties, champagne brunches, parades, festivals, and sunburns; workweeks full of attempts to recover; rally; repeat.
That can only mean one thing—gay pride season is in full swing.
I’ve been to my fair share of gay pride festivals since coming out to my parents about five years ago. That first one, in West Hollywood, marked a significant moment in my maturation as a gay person. After years of living a closeted life, I stood on Santa Monica Boulevard and held another girl’s hand as we marveled at a parade full of drag queens and glitter-encrusted floats. I was in a sea of people I didn’t know, yet no one felt like a stranger; we were part of the same community, and proud of it.
Since that first Sunday afternoon in WeHo, not much has changed: I still get excited for the parades, the activist booths at festivals, the sense of community that comes with unabashedly celebrating who we are. And even though I’ve had fun attending gay pride events in other places—Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Long Beach, and WeHo—there’s nothing quite like celebrating at home.
Although I’m biased, since this marks my fourth year on the all-volunteer festival planning committee, I still think Santa Barbara Gay Pride 2012 may be the best installment yet.
First of all, we’ve got the benefit of the calendar on our side. Santa Barbara’s festival falls on Saturday, July 7, at Leadbetter Beach, which makes this year’s theme, Pride Is Patriotic, a perfect complement to Independence Day. Want to don that red, white, and blue outfit a few more times this year? Feel free.
Tonight, Thursday, July 5, Canary Hotel (31 W. Carrillo St.) will host Pacific Pride Foundation’s monthly summertime soirée for the gay community called Sunset @ the Canary, from 6-8 p.m. After that, ladies, get ready for the Pride GirlParty at the Wildcat Bar & Lounge (15 W. Ortega St.). Guest bartenders will pour drink specials, DJ SuzanX will get everyone dancing on the checkerboard floor, and L.A.’s queer burlesque troupe, The Pin Up Girls, will rile up the crowd with a sexy performance or two.
On Friday evening, head to the Contemporary Arts Forum (653 Paseo Nuevo) for a reading of the one-act play On a Bench, followed by a reception and Q&A with the play’s writer, Neil Koenigsberg, and director, Maggie Mixsell. Afterward, the party continues at Indochine (434 State St.) for Dance with Pride.
But the main attraction is the festival itself, of course. The laid-back, family-friendly event provides a perfect excuse to round up your crew and head to the beach, even if you just spent all day there for July 4. Food trucks, merchant booths, and nonprofit vendors like Equality California and the Human Rights Campaign will dot Leadbetter on Saturday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. A Doggie Pride Costume Contest will award prizes for winners of the Put Your Paws Up competition. And a full lineup of entertainment — including disco queen Thelma Houston; Cher impersonator and star of this season’s RuPaul’s Drag Race Chad Michaels; and homegrown talent like Kat Devlin, Redfish, Santa Barbara Drag Divas, and area deejays—will make the stage a focal point throughout the day.
Personally, I’m most excited about a brand-new project: a historical timeline, which attendees can contribute to, featuring various local and national touchstone moments in the fight for gay rights. Not only is it a nod to our overarching theme, it’ll also speak to some of the major accomplishments of the past 12 months, like the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and President Obama voicing his support for marriage equality.
Whether you’re a pride newbie or a seasoned vet, there’s something for everyone during this year’s celebrations in Santa Barbara. See you out and about, and happy pride!
Santa Barbara’s Pacific Pride Festival takes place Saturday, July 7, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. at Leadbetter Beach. Free admission. For more information and a list of the week’s events, visit pacificpridefestival.org.