Arts & Culture

Central Coast Pride: 10 days of events kicks off Friday

Raising the rainbow flag at Central Coast Pride 1997,
Raising the rainbow flag at Central Coast Pride 1997,

Starting Friday, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of the Central Coast celebrates 15 years of diversity, respect and acceptance.

Central Coast Pride seeks to recognize San Luis Obispo County’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community through more than a week of fun festivities.

“Pride is all about celebrating, educating and demonstrating,” said Robert Kinports, Pride coordinator and GALA board president. “It’s an opportunity to talk and connect and share our lives with the community at large.”

In fact, he said, Pride brings the general public face to face with a vibrant, valuable segment of the population.

“The more time you spend around the GBLT community, the more you realize we’re no different than anyone else,” Kinports said. “We’re productive members of the community, and we’re just asking to have the same civil rights as anyone else.”

A long tradition

According to Kinports, the Pride festival tradition can be traced to the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a series of violent clashes between New York City police officers and demonstrators in response to a raid on a Greenwich Village gay bar.

On June 28, 1970, gay rights activists marked the anniversary with Gay Pride marches in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Similar celebrations soon sprouted up all over the country.

San Luis Obispo launched its own Pride festival in 1997.

“It’s probably our single most visible event, our greatest opportunity to connect with the most people,” Kinports said of Pride.

This year’s Pride Week festivities include a Friday night art reception at the GALA Center in San Luis Obispo, a Fourth of July beach barbecue at Pismo Beach and a concert Wednesday by fingerstyle guitarist Jennifer Martin at the Steynberg Gallery in San Luis Obispo.

On July 8, former “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestants Venus D-Lite and Morgan McMichaels perform alongside fellow drag queen Tommi Rose at Drag Divas Live at SLO Brewing Co. The show is followed by the popular Pride Dance Party.

Past GALA presidents will share their memories at a “15 Years of Pride” celebration July 9 at the GALA Center. The event features live music, a barbecue and educational displays.

The celebration comes to a close with Pride in the Plaza on July 10 in Mission Plaza in downtown San Luis Obispo.

According to Kinports, the family-friendly festival features face-painting, carnival games, a bounce house and an obstacle course for the kids.

As many as 70 vendors will provide food, drinks and other goodies.

Dance diva Taylor Dayne headlines a free entertainment lineup that includes soulful singersongwriter Levi Kreis, indie pop-rock duo Trusting Lucy and electro popfolk artist Cassidy Haley. CORE Dance Company of San Luis Obispo will also perform.

“We hope to fill the plaza as full as we possibly can,” Kinsports said, noting that legendary drag queen RuPaul “drew quite a number of additional people” in 2006.

In the past, Central Coast Pride has also featured a series of highprofile performers at the San Luis Obispo Performing Arts Center, including comedians Margaret Cho, Kathy Griffin and Wanda Sykes and the musical duo Indigo Girls. Although organizers weren’t able to secure a similar act for Pride Week, Lily Tomlin performed at the PAC in February.

Gift to community

Organizers expect between 6,000 and 7,000 people to attend Pride events. About 3,000 to 4,000 will attend Pride in the Plaza alone, Kinports said.

“We’ll spend a great deal of money on the festival this year between entertainment and renting the plaza and security,” said Kinports, who estimates that GALA spends close to $20,000 on Pride in the Plaza. “It’s our gift back to the community for their support over the year."

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