Long Beach Pride Returns In Person
This year’s Long Beach Pride parade and festival (July 8-10) once again showcases the best of what Long Beach is and aspires to be: an inclusive, welcoming community.
But, let’s be honest: a good deal of the nearly 100,000 people who will flock to the 39th iteration of the event will be drawn by another undeniable feature: it’s a great party.
Along with the parade, there will be myriad attractions and experiences: Glam Squads, dance battles, roller skating, food, drink and, yes, bingo. And, as always, there will be music. Lots of music. A broad range of performers, bands and DJs taking the stage for three days, headlined by the likes of Iggy Azalea, Nataliz Jimenez and Paulina Rubio.
40 Years of Long Beach Pride
After a pandemic-forced, two-year hiatus, Pride returns in its 39th iteration, as strong and as fun as ever, which really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
This isn’t the first time Pride has had to battle its way back from some kind of obstacle or roadblock. After all, what began about 40 years ago as a picnic quickly became a fight for visibility, equality and acceptance – and it has since grown to become a beloved city staple, second only to the Grand Prix of Long Beach in terms of annual popularity. The last in-person Pride, held in 2019, attracted more than 80,000 people.
This year’s event takes place along Shoreline Drive, while the parade, commencing at 10:30 a.m, July 10, begins at the intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Lindero Avenue and moves west to Alamitos Avenue.
Given its resilience, it’s easy to say Pride has come a long way, but there’s really more to it than that. In fact, Pride has been one of the leading drivers as Long Beach has built its reputation as a city that embraces inclusion: Long Beach has been named one of the best cities in the nation for LGBTQ+ inclusion by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation … for the 10th straight year. The announcement of that honor was made by another Long Beach official: Robert Garcia, the city’s first openly gay mayor, who said the city remains “a place where everyone – regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity – is welcome.”
In many ways, Pride’s growth in popularity owes to the fact that its principles of inclusion and community speak to people of all backgrounds and cultures. And after two years of being forced to put a hold on in-person participation – pandemic, you know – organizers are clearly eager to get back to celebrating what they’ve helped create.
Elsa Martinez, president of Long Beach Pride, said this year’s event will be “our biggest, and will become the gold standard for Pride festivals across the globe.” Central to that ambition will be multiple experiences and attractions that pretty much offer something for everyone.
For instance, there is a Teen Pride event, featuring live DJ performances and dancing geared toward LGBTQ+ teens, as well as a Senior Zone with card games and bingo. The Transcendence Dome is a pop-up museum sharing historical context, especially when it comes to the trans community and trans women of color. There will be a Drag Diva Glam Squad making up faces, while the Werkshop Ballroom will provide fierce dance competitions. The centerpiece to all this is the rainbow-powered roller rink, where anyone can roll to a pulsing soundtrack of dance anthems.All of this is designed to “tell our story,” Martinez said, not only only the struggles but the accomplishments as well. Pride, of course, having its share of both.
The History of Long Beach Pride
In the early 1980s, Long Beach’s LGBTQ+ community was looking to gather, celebrate and support their community which often found itself under attack. Not eager to simply copy whatever West Hollywood was doing at the time, they came up with something that spoke to a very Long Beach vibe: a picnic in the park. That would be followed in 1984 by Long Beach’s first Pride parade.
Though relatively small in terms of attracting people, the event caused enough of a stir that the following year, then-Pride Board president Judi Doyle received death threats, telling her she would be shot if she marched in the 1985 parade. Doyle, who passed away in February of 2022 at the age of 78, did march, wearing a bulletproof vest. “I didn’t have a death wish, and I didn’t want to be a martyr,” she later said. “I did consider the dangers. But I came to a place where I decided I wouldn’t live in fear.” There were more struggles ahead.
When parade organizers, who were being charged $1 million for liability insurance by the city, discovered the city had waived or reduced insurance requirements for other groups, they sued on grounds of discrimination. In 1991, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that Long Beach’s ordinance requiring liability insurance on the basis of a parade’s subject matter was unconstitutional and violated the 1st Amendment. After losing the court battle, the city finally agreed to develop uniform requirements for all events.
Now known as one of the most LGBTQ-friendly destinations in the country, it’s safe to say times have changed in Long Beach. And the city’s Pride event has grown steadily over the decades, attracting 80,000 in 2019, the last time it was held in person. A virtual festival was streamed last year.
A central element to its success has long been entertainment, specifically music, with a star-studded roster of major musical talent over the years, including a couple of Dreamgirls (Jennifer Holliday and Jennifer Hudson), disco icons (The Village People, KC and the Sunshine Band and Eveyln “Champagne” King), as well as musicians representing a miles wide swath of musical styles, everything from The Bangles to “Supreme Diva of Mexican Pop” Gloria Trevi, Queen Latifah to Sara Bareilles.
One thing that has changed is Pride’s date, and organizers couldn’t be happier. They had long wished to throw their party during the longer summer days, but had never made it out of May. Until this year.
“This is a long-awaited celebration of our entire LGBTQ+ community. We changed the date of the festival and parade to be able to enjoy the incredible setting that we have historically used with warmer weather and longer days,” Martinez said. “This festival feels like a wonderful comeback for Long Beach Pride and all our guests. We have missed all of them.”