Orange County LGBT Pride Festival "Revival" Starts Small

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Sasha Baron Cohen's comedy has nothing to do with OC pride festivals. We just can't find photos from past fests.
Orange County's first-ever gay and lesbian pride festival was held in Santa Ana's Centennial Park in 1988, when angry Christian conservatives showed up not because they'd finally come out of the closet (knew it!) but to fling urine-filled balloons, taunt attendees with chants of "Go back to your closet," and cheer on an airplane they'd hired to fly over the event with a banner reading, "Sodomites out of Santa Ana! No AIDS in OC!"

It's gone downhill ever since.

That is to say, OC pride fests eventually became less controversial, more mainstream and waaaaaay more taken for granted. (Wish we could say the same about angry Christian conservatives.) By 2002, and event that had once drawn 9,000 revelers was quietly canceled due to waning interest. Locals have had to be content with pride weekends in Long Beach, Palm Springs and West Hollywood ever since.

James S. Nowick aims to change that.

A member of the Orange County Equality Coalition and a UC Irvine professor who organized a Proposition 8 forum on campus last spring with UCI Law School dean Erwin Chemerinsky, Norwick is also helping organize the Orange County Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Festival "revival" on Saturday, Aug. 15, in William R. Mason Regional Park in Irvine.

"OC's LGBT Pride festival started 20 years ago in a public park, but was driven to the refuge of the UCI campus in subsequent years because of a confrontation between participants and protesters," Norwick explained. "Eventually, the cost of renting the UCI campus made it prohibitive to continue. Catalyzed by Proposition 8, the pride festival has been revived in a family friendly form as a public picnic."

If that sounds modest in comparison to the past, that's by design.
"The idea is to start relatively small and to commit to a picnic and build upon it," says Norwick, who expects 500 to 1,000 attendees. "It is my hope that in future years the festival will be larger and have a formal parade component."

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Yay! Found one! Oops, it's from Hawaii.
This year, an informal precession will pass along Harvard Avenue to Mason Park in association with the "Orange County Kiss In for Equal Rights," an anti-Prop 8 event that occurs during the festival at 2 p.m. (Smoochers start gathering at 11 a.m. in front of Steelhead Brewery, across from UCI at 4175 Campus Dr., and then proceed to the festival site.)

The festival itself is scheduled to run from noon to 4 p.m. and mostly be centered around Mason Park Shelter 6. Speakers include Irvine City Councilwoman Beth Krom and Jennifer C. Pizer, Lamda Legal's senior counsel and Marriage Project director. Other entertainment is planned.

Participants are encouraged to bring picnic lunches, but alcohol is discouraged as this is an event that encourages the attendance of families, even dogs. Those who must get their drink on should hang around for the after-party at Steelhead from 4-8 p.m.

Festival admission is free, which is exactly how Norwick hopes it will always be.

"I feel that a public, participatory LGBT Pride celebration is better suited to Orange County than an extravagant, expensive festival, such as those in LA, Long Beach, or San Diego," he said. "Orange County's response to Proposition 8 has convinced me that the OC LGBT community has a tremendous grass-roots energy, and I would like our LGBT Pride celebration to match the strengths and needs of our suburban LGBT community."

Need more details? Wanna help make this the best revival ever? Contact organizers here.

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