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Sacramento’s Pride celebration thrives regardless of unpredicable weather

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Rain? What rain? A tidal wave wouldn’t have stopped people from showing up to the 27th annual Sacramento Pride parade and party last Saturday at the Capitol Mall. The area was bookended by the gorgeous Tower Bridge at one end and the State Capital at the other end, a great backdrop for the Pride celebration.

Sacramento’s 2011 Pride parade and party lasted from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 4, 2011. Both 3rd and 7th streets were reserved for the festivities which included vendor booths, a live entertainment stage, an area for a diverse selection of food and a dance tent. This year’s entertainment schedule included acts such as Miss Coco Peru, Raquela, Tom Goss, Luciana, Jovi Radtke and Xavier Toscano. Pride kicked off with a parade at 10:00 a.m. starting from 5th and S streets.

Sacramento Pride’s focus is to bring lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans out of the shadows and into everyday society. One doesn’t have to be gay in order to participate or celebrate in Pride, as it is an opportunity to show support and enthusiasm for the LGBT community, friends and loved ones. The city of Sacramento is home to 9.8 percent of our country’s  gay population
– the sixth highest in the nation.

Sacramento Pride is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Center, so when the forecast predicted rain at the beginning of the week, it still didn’t bring them down.

"We embrace the rain, it’s not like we can cancel the event. We just hope for the best," said a very optimistic Josh Jacoby, Pride Director.

Jacoby said the turnout exceeded his expectations with the rain in mind. The organizers handed out free pink umbrellas to attendees as a way to show that they wanted them there no matter the circumstances or unpredictable weather.

Members from all walks of life came together to celebrate diversity. There were same sex couples wearing brightly colored, matching shirts declaring "Just Married!" and men in high heels covered head to toe in glitter. There were drag queens, people wearing colorful leis and others donning posters and signs showcasing their beliefs and statements.

Each year after Pride, organizers rest for about two months before they do it all over again and start planning for the next Pride. They estimate that about 10 months are necessary to properly organize the event. In a parking garage located next to the Pride’s premises, there is a hub where all the passionate and tender-hearted volunteers work together to make sure everything runs smoothly. Sacramento Pride is put on with the help of volunteers, this year there were over 390 signed up beforehand and many more walk-in volunteers were welcomed on the day of the event.

Many Pride festival goers enjoyed vendor booths showcasing various products or organizations, handing out literature and free merchandise and always having someone on hand to explain more about their reason for being part of Pride. Attendees had a bevy of vendors to choose and learn from that were associated and supported by the Sacramento gay, lesbian and transgender community. Booths included women’s and men’s health services, safe sex promotion, Planned Parenthood services and STD testing, the Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, information on how to come out to your family and friends, dating services and Gay and Lesbian art.

One of the best new discoveries was "Lavender Angels" produced by the Midtown Business Association and a program of the Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center and Police department. Lavender Angels provide a late night patrol and concierge for people who do not feel safe in the streets of the Lavender Heights area of Sacramento.

Another interesting addition to the vendor area was the dozen or so congregation organizations set up and ready to explain how they have embraced the lesbian and gay community. Handouts about acceptance with Christianity and Homosexuality, Catholic HIV/AIDS Ministry and the Spiritual Life Center were being passed around with open arms and smiles.

This year’s event sponsors included Jackson Rancheria, Wells Fargo, Outword Magazine, Midtown Business Association, Sactown Magazine, The Rainbow Pages, Lumens Light + Living, Regional Transit, Faces, Barefoot Wine, Hewlett Packard, Bud Light, SMUD, Amtrak, Cheer San Francisco, CARES and Sacramento News & Review. The many sponsors played an enormous role in the heart of the celebration. Each sponsor had representatives present to staff their tables and march in the parade to show their support to the gay, lesbian and transgender community. Amtrak also sponsored a KIDS ZONE, a safe place for parents to leave their children for free while they wandered around the festival.

After powering through the strong winds and rain and experiencing tents blown over and torn down, people still didn’t leave, they stayed and enjoyed some grub and got their dance on. There was plenty of food to sample and a large mobile bar sold beer and wine for anyone that was thirsty before they got down to the jams by resident DJ from Faces: Jon E Quest.

Toward the later afternoon, the makeshift dance floor was heavily drenched with rain and jam-packed full of happy and expressive people of all ages. The highlight of the afternoon was a moment when the sun peeked out from the clouds and the rain stopped. The DJ got on the megaphone and declared, "Now each of you call a friend and tell them to get their behinds out here ‘cause the sun has come out!"

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