SANTA CRUZ -- The 45th annual Santa Cruz Pride Parade unfolded in downtown Santa Cruz Sunday. Thousands of people lined Pacific Avenue to cheer the dozens of organizations, church groups, local agencies, businesses and others in the parade that support the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, Questioning (LBGTQ) community.
Hosted by the Diversity Center of Santa Cruz, the festive event, which is part of the international movement, Pride Month, is the largest pride parade on the Central Coast.
“This is a great event for our community, especially when it comes to support for the transgender community that is particularly vulnerable,” said Jenni Veitch-Olson, who rode alongside members of the Derby Girls, Guys, Gays. “We need to show support for all members of the LBGTQ community and this parade is a good way of doing that. It’s important to come out and be a part of this.”
Santa Cruz Pride spiraled out of the first Santa Cruz "Gay Pride" public event in 1975. Pride month was generated by the Stonewall Riots, the first major demonstrations for gay rights in the US. In New York City, on June 28, 1969, police stormed the Stonewall Inn, which had established itself as a safe gathering spot for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. The bar patrons, however —gay men and drag queens — fought back and six days of riots and demonstrations followed, thus pegging the start of the gay rights movement in America.
The theme this year in Santa Cruz was “Turning the Tide.” There were two grand marshals this year: Vnes, a local musician from Rhode Island and Long Island, NY, who moved to Santa Cruz in 1993.
The second was Adam Spickler, the first openly transgender man to hold elected office at any level in the state of California. A 2002 graduate of Cabrillo College, Spickler was elected to the Cabrillo College Board of Trustees in 2018. Themes of the past include Courage, Unity. Equality, One Community, Peace through Pride and Life Gets Better Together. The event has drawn thousands of participants from a huge spectrum of society over the years; from church groups to the Santa Cruz Police Chief and County Sheriff, to schools, clubs and non-profits. The parade this year included Conexiones, Trans Families, Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter, SC County Health Centers, Santa Cruz County democratic Party, the Santa Cruz County Clerk, Friends of State SCC Parks, Temple Beth El, the United Church of Christ and the Calvary Episcopal Church.
ABOVE: Christine Jandreau of the Derby Girls, Guys & Gays frames herself in a homemade sign while roller-skating in the 45th annual Santa Cruz Pride Parade in downtown Santa Cruz on Sunday. (Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)
Alejandra Vargas said the parade was her ninth such event.
“There’s part of me that feels that Santa Cruz is really not living up to its image of inclusivity,” she said. “Some groups, especially large businesses and corporations, are dragging their heels. I mean, here’s AT&T. Where were they when gay marriage was the topic many years ago? I call this ‘rainbow capitalism.’ Don’t get me wrong — this is important for people to be out here. But there’s room for improvement.”
The parade was followed by a festival, where speakers, dance, music, food and information booths filled a huge parking lot. The Santa Cruz Pride After-Party then followed at 4 p.m. at the nearby Catalyst, headlined by Planet Booty.
Other Pride events around the nation include: