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Rainbow Festival celebrates 25 years Labor Day weekend

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Members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex community will be able to show their pride with a Midtown block party filled with music, entertainment, divas, drag shows and drinking this Labor Day weekend.

The Sacramento Rainbow Festival will feature events and entertainment Sept. 2 – 4 and will include performances by dance-pop musicians Crystal Waters and Wynter Gordon; an SF Diva Drag Show featuring Cassandra Cass; and performances by drag queen Tommi Rose the Disco Diva and singer-entertainer Jimmy James.

The festival street fair will be 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Sunday Sept. 4 and will feature all-day entertainment and vendors, drag shows, a Latin stage and the annual wet T-shirt and wet underwear contests.

Roads will be blocked between J and L streets and 19th and 21st streets. The streets should be cleaned and re-opened by about 8 p.m., Sidie said.

For a complete list of events, visit the CGNIE website.

Tickets to the festival are $10. Children under 12 get in free. VIP weekend passes are available for $50 and allow VIP entrance all weekend to Faces Nightclub, The Depot, Badlands, Club 21 and the street fair. VIP passes are available online.

The Sacramento Rainbow Festival has served to raise awareness of local LGBTI groups and services since 1986. Proceeds this year will go to the Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center, said Terry Sidie, co-founder of the festival and owner of Faces Nightclub and other bars and clubs.

One hundred twenty to 130 booths will line the street and represent gay groups such as the Gay Cowboys, Gay Leather, Dykes on Bikes, Sacramento Gay Men’s Chorus and Sacramento Women’s Chorus, Sidie said. Two new groups are Cheer Sacramento and the Lambda Players, a gay theater company.

Food and cold treats like snow cones and ice cream will be sold throughout the street fair. Other booths will have T-shirts and gay pride paraphernalia for sale.

Sidie added that there is always a lot of fun, a lot of entertainment and a lot of drinking during the festival.

“We are a party fair!” he said with a laugh.

The average crowd is between 2,500 to 3,500 people, though Sidie said he has had crowds of up to 6,000 people in the past. Sidie said expects a large turnout this year because of the weekend’s line up. He hopes to meet the 6,000 mark.

The Rainbow Festival emerged after Richard Boriolo, owner of Hamburger Patties at 1630 J St., proposed the idea to Sidie in June 1986 and held the first festival during Labor Day weekend, Boriolo said.

Boriolo said he was inspired after witnessing the 1986 San Francisco protests against the Supreme Court sodomy laws prohibiting all sexual acts not related to procreation.

“A lot of speakers from the community came to talk,” Boriolo said. “We were amazed at how quickly San Francisco was able to put together a rally. After that, we had to go back to Sacramento and do something for our own community.”

“This was back in the time when gay bars had always been locked away with no windows,” Sidie added. “Nobody was really supposed to know where they were, and all the walls were black and depressing. We decided we needed a gay fair in the gay area commonly referred to as Lavender Heights (the intersection between 20th and K streets).”

Boriolo, who had planned the Rainbow Festivals for 10 years, said that the festival is “a big tent event – it doesn’t exclude anyone.”

He said it allows young people to see the makeup of their community.

“It’s kind of like flexing in the mirror,” Boriolo said. “It shows you the size of your community and the strength you have when you get together. It’s empowering looking around and seeing a lot of people out there.”

Sidie said this year’s festival may possibly be his last to plan and direct.

Planning the festival took him about six months.“It could take up to a whole year if you really did a better job than what I do,” Sidie added. “I’m so busy doing everything else so I kind of leave it off a little bit. But it needs to be big. It needs to be 10 – 20 thousand people.”

After 25 years, he said he is looking forward to handing over the Rainbow Festival to somebody else to pick up and take over where he left off.

“We built a gay Mecca that is very pretty and, in my opinion, would compare to the Castro or any other large gay community in any large city in the United States. We’re growing, and we intend to grow more.”

As a similar event to the Rainbow Festival, Sidie is hosting the 26th anniversary celebration for Faces Nightclub this weekend, Aug. 19 – 21.

There will be drink specials, dancers, a guest DJ from New York and a pool party and free barbecue.

For more information, visit the Faces Nightclub website

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