During National Coming Out Month, the 43rd annual Tucson Pride Parade and Festival will kick off this year’s festivities a little bit differently with a virtual event hosted in place of a traditional parade and celebration on Saturday, Oct. 24, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Originally, Tucson Pride was going to consider 2020 the “big breakout year for the physical festival,” according to Stephen Myers-Fulgham, Tucson Pride’s treasurer, so the decision to cancel the event was not an easy one. However, he said he has thoroughly enjoyed seeing the event come to life.
Twitch will be the platform of choice for the event this year. The virtual festival will livestream on Twitch with a combination of pre-recorded performances and presentations in addition to livestreamed segments, according to Sam Cloud, president of the Tucson Pride governing board.
Furthermore, the video content will be shared on various social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and “may branch off to other segments or platforms to broadcast the signal far and wide with the potential for interactive dialogues, discussions/panels and Zoom links as well,” according to Cloud.
The all-day event will be hosted by 2019 Tucson Pride royalty, Mrs. Tucson Pride, Lucinda Holliday, and Mr. Tucson Pride, Justin Deeper-Love.
This year’s theme is tied to the presidential election year in addition to the 2020 Census.
According to Stephen Myers-Fulgham, this year’s virtual festival’s theme is “Turn out,” as in turn out to Pride and turn out to vote.
The reason for this year’s theme is directly tied to the work Tucson Pride has done this year with the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the national LGBTQ+ task force, Queer the Census, to push and promote the idea of queerness in both the census and in the voting process, according to Cloud.
Because Tucson Pride aims to educate as a means of fulfilling its mission, local nonprofits that serve the LQBTQ+ community will be invited to present resources and information to the community.
Stephen Myers-Fulgham discussed how Tucson Pride will also launch their educational spots about programs that they launched like the Tucson Pride Veterans Project that serves and caters to the veteran population in the LGBTQ+ community.
According to Jeff Myers-Fulgham, interim vice president of Tucson Pride, and Stephen Myers-Fulgham, the topics presented are resources that the community might need. Topics for discussion range anywhere from adoption, mental health, HIV/AIDS and have extended an invitation to Black Lives Matter to discuss racism and white supremacy in the United States.
Tucson Queerstory will be presenting material relevant to the history of the LGBTQ+ community and bringing on sponsors and vendors who are LGBTQ+ or are allies of the community to share their experiences, Jeff Myers-Fulgham said.
In addition to the presentations and panel discussions, various performance types will be incorporated into the event like drag performers, spoken word poetry, dancers and comedians, Cloud said.
The performance lineup is truly one of a kind this year because, according to Cloud, “99% of the entertainment incorporated into the festival will be local and Tucson Pride is trying to showcase the intense amount of talent within our community.”
While the lineup will be announced within the coming weeks, this event will be free of any entry fees to the community making this the first free-of-charge pride festival online, according to Cloud.
The festival will have a few surprises to spruce up some excitement to engage with the audience throughout the event directly.
An audience engagement activity that the virtual festival will have is a live raffle. Prizes will be donated by event sponsors and will be sold through Eventbrite. The raffle tickets will be sold up until the festival. Some of the big-ticket prize items include furniture and staycation packages at a sponsored hotel.
What is most exciting about this virtual festival in particular other than the prizes and the lineup, at least in the eyes of Danny Opacich, the interim secretary at Tucson Pride, is the community’s opportunity to participate and take part in the event actively.
“We have invited people to submit videos to be [shown] throughout the festival,” Opacich said. “[Individuals] can share their story, share their introduction, share what Pride means to them, advise somebody coming who may be coming out.”
However, a whole village is required to work together to produce an event many Tucsonans wait in anticipation for every year.
This village known as Tucson Pride is made up entirely of volunteers, and according to Cloud, “This organization would not exist if it were not a community organization and it truly is a community effort to do any of the things that we accomplish.”
Cloud’s final note to the community is filled with hope for the Tucson Pride Parade and Festival future because this year, the virtual festival is “put on and created by the entire community,” she said.
“I think the most important thing we want folks to know about this new format and the new year is that we can still come together as a community. We are still here to feature all the incredible pieces of our community. We hope that this year, even though we’re virtual, that folks turn out for Pride, and turn out to vote,” Cloud said.
For more information on the virtual festival, you can visit tucsonpride.org and if you are interested in participating, partnering or performing you can send an email to email@example.com.
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