The 42nd annual Tucson Pride in the Desert Parade and Festival 2019 took place yesterday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the George DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center at Reid Park. This year paid homage to the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The festival and parade was in honor of the Stonewall Riots and to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.
“I love the Pride celebration," said Kriis Dikay, who won the annually bestowed title of Mr Tucson Pride in 2017. "Coming back out here, meeting new people — especially people from out of town — is just fantastic."
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Dikay was one of many performers that took to the stages at this year’s festival, including Brody Ray from "America’s Got Talent" and Esera Tuaolo from "The Voice."
“It’s been a tough time building up to where we are now, but the way we are coming through together nowadays, it’s only going up from here,” Dikay said.
There were long rows of vendors from companies like State Farm at the festival, alongside many local businesses advertising their products and showing their support for the LGBTQ+ community.
A popular vendor was BlackJack Citrus Infusions. The lemonade vendor had a constant line of people paying for drinks.
There were also many activist groups that attended the Pride festival.
The AIDS Ribbon Tucson was a memorial put up at the site in honor of those who have died because of the virus, as well as those currently battling it. A 140-foot long red strip of felt was stretched in a circle at the edge of the festival. Pride attendees wrote names of people who have died from AIDS on the felt. Jeffrey Scott Brown was the curator for the project.
“Every year we lose 10 to 12 [people] because AIDS is still a problem,” Brown said. “That’s why we do this: to remember them. And also to wake people up a little bit, because there is still no cure and people are still dying every day, but there is promise because of the new medications that have come out.”
The AIDS Ribbon organization will be at AIDSWALK Tucson on Oct. 13.
At the main stage, several performances continued the whole festival day along with an appearance from the Tucson Pride Royalty 2019. Cyndi LaFrese from the "Cyndi and Chris in the Morning" radio talk show co-hosted the festival this year.
“My personal mission is to celebrate who we are as human beings, to be open to honor ourselves and to share about our human experiences,” LaFrese said. “That aside, from whether we’re from the LGBTQI+ community, we are human beings first and that’s important. We should honor and love ourselves first.”
LaFrese, who is openly gay, presented all the performers on the main stage for the day.
“I think it is a privilege to share my story authentically and share my life as a gay person, and I think to bring that into pride and connect that and celebrate with openness is special,” LaFrese said.
The event was set up by a team of board members that spend the whole year preparing for the festival.
Wendy Bailey has been on the board twice. She was involved for eight years in the late 1990s to early 2000s and took a break from the job. She recently resumed her work with the board.
“I came back to the board because I believe in this cause,” Bailey said. “I know that when I came out, it was this festival that brought me out and let me meet new people and got me involved in nonprofit in this community and that’s very important.”
Bailey stressed the importance of the festival as the big event for some people. According to Bailey, it is an event that many people look forward to in order to be themselves and see friends that they haven’t seen in a while.
Bailey believes that the event is an opportunity for members of the LGBTQ+ community to see that there is a community of people out there. She said that when she was younger, she was unaware of the LGBTQ+ community and had trouble realizing there were others like her. It was not until Bailey went to high school that she began to find a place where she felt she belonged.
Bailey said a lot has changed since the Stonewall Riots.
“I can’t imagine walking down the street and holding the hand of my wife, not without [Stonewall] happening,” Bailey said. “I can’t imagine schools making sure they have a teacher or facilitator that will bring together the kids who need the guidance and need to know they're not the only one at their school … Stonewall just really revolutionized the community and made the community throughout the United States understand and speak up and let people know that there are people that are different. I think that’s what gave everybody a voice.”
Bailey is proud of the growing number of children and families that are attending the parade and the festival.
“I don’t want to be tolerated, I want to be accepted and respected for being a human being,” Bailey said. “I just want to know that I am a person who works in society and pays taxes and does things with everybody else, just to get the respect I deserve.”
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