This weekend, the 14th Annual Santa Barbara Pride Festival drew members from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities to mingle, listen to music and support local gay-owned businesses.
The event, hosted by the Gay Santa Barbara Foundation (GSB), took place downtown in De la Guerra Plaza on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Sunday between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Vendors selling products such as clothing, jewelry and food were stationed by the steps of city hall, while bands such as the Disposable Boy Toys and Instant Love Mix entertained audiences of around 200 people.
Among the vendors was the Gay Cafe, run by the UCSB Queer Student Union, which sold smoothies and coffee to raise funds. Charles Rice, executive director of the GSB and organizer of the festival, said the cafe’s presence was an example of good community relations.
“It’s most important that the community understand that this is for them, and the community supports us too, by buying drinks from the Gay Cafe,” Rice said. “Last year, the Queer Student Union ran the Gay Cafe and we gave them $1,000. It’s our principle source of revenue to put on this event.”
On Saturday night, the festivities moved to Zelo’s, a local restaurant and nightclub located on State Street, for an after-party. The Read OUT Loud literary salon hosted an event in the city hall council chambers on Sunday, which gave queer authors the opportunity to read and sign their work.
Rice said he was extremely happy with the way the festival developed and was pleased to see people wandering off State Street to participate in the revelry.
“It’s an even better venue than we’ve had in the past,” Rice said. “We have more sponsors and excellent entertainment … we purposely have it here on the steps of city hall on De la Guerra so that we can interact with the community. That’s what we had in mind – people walking up and down State Street can bring their kids here and see that maybe we’re not so bad. This is a way of breaking down stereotypes.”
Sean Reardon-Loomis, who manned the “Mother Cluckers” frozen custard booth, said he was also pleased with the turnout at the festival.
“We’re a gay-owned and operated company, and we wanted to support Santa Barbara,” Reardon-Loomis said. “It’s a lot of fun; there are really fun people here. It’s more intimate than most Pride festivals.”
However, Ron Jacobs, a custodial supervisor at an elementary school in Long Beach, said he was troubled by the small scale of the celebration.
“In Long Beach, there are at least 150,000 people and over 200 booths at the festival itself,” Jacobs said. “I come up here for the festival and you can walk around the whole thing in five minutes. I realize it’s a smaller community. In Long Beach there’s lots and lots of gay people and around here there’s not too many. There are lots of families – it’s more a family thing. It’s OK; I’m just really disappointed that it’s so small. There’s not enough publicity – there were no ads on any stores and it wasn’t in the newspapers.”
Second-year Santa Barbara City College psychology major Jessica Goldberg was also disappointed in the size and placement of the festival, and said she saw it as being hidden from the larger community.
“I think it sucks because it’s so small,” Goldberg said. “I’ve been to Long Beach Pride and San Diego Pride and they were huge. If it was bigger, it would show more acceptance to gay people. And it’s hidden; we’re in a park. Zelo’s is having an alternative night, but that’s sad. They should have a gay night every week.”
Goldberg’s friend, second-year Santa Barbara City College music major Jenny McGibbon, said she disagreed and that she enjoyed the comfortable, relaxed atmosphere.
“It doesn’t suck,” McGibbon said. “It’s small and cozy and quaint and full of sassy, sexy queerdos. So everyone should come next year.”
Brett Wagner, an openly gay candidate running for Congress who spoke on Saturday, said he thought that, small or not, the festival accomplished its goals of instilling pride in gay youth and bringing the LGBT community into the public eye.
“My election, which is beginning to look more likely every day, will double the number of gay men in Congress,” Wagner said. “We need to come together as a community. When I was a boy, the big saying was ‘Black is Beautiful,’ and black people relearned their sense of pride. Gay people are following that example – that gay is beautiful. Being gay is unique in the 21st century; we’re the one minority that can conceal itself, even from itself. Our journey of self-discovery is about learning to be proud.”
It is estimated that last year’s festival drew 5,000 people overall. While he was not sure how many attended this year, Rice said this is the first time the festival has spanned two days.