Resurrected, Boisterous OC Pride Festival "a Smashing Success"

Photo by Christopher Victorio
Park rangers talk with OC Pride participants about the noise at Mason Regional Park in Irvine on Saturday.
The crowd was small but boisterous, there was a minor issue with the noise and some participants did not know at first that the showy police presence was for their benefit, but otherwise the resurrected, family friendly OC Pride Festival at Mason Regional Park in Irvine Saturday was "a smashing success," according to organizers of the LGBT event.

(See photographer Christopher Victorio's slideshow.)

Nearly 500 people attended and feedback "was really strong," according to James S. Nowick, a member of the Orange County Equality Coalition and a UC Irvine professor who also organized a Proposition 8 forum on campus last spring with UCI Law School dean Erwin Chemerinsky.

The police were out because of the experience of past LGBT pride festivals in Orange County, including the notorious 1988 inaugural event in Santa Ana's Centennial Park, where angry Christian conservatives threw urine-filled balloons, taunted attendees with chants of "Go back to your closet" and cheered on an airplane they'd hired to fly over the event with a banner reading, "Sodomites out of Santa Ana! No AIDS in OC!"

Despite such a reception, pride festivals grew to draw up to 9,000 participants in Orange County. But with waning interest, the plug was finally pulled in 2002.

It was the reawakening of Orange County's LGBT community amid the votes and debates over marriage equality that led to what is hoped to be a new annual pride event, according to Nowick, who previously explained why this first run would be decidedly smaller and geared toward families.

The new direction was appreciated, according to feedback Nowick received, including this note from attendee Karla Bland: "I would like to say a big thank you and congratulations for bringing back pride to OC. It was really great to see everyone there having a good time with family and friends and feeling the energy of such a positive event. What the OC Pride Committee pulled off with just a few months of planning was absolutely incredible.  We had a great time and are looking forward to next year."

Speakers included: activist Zoe Nicholson, who gave a rousing speech on fighting for LGBT civil rights; Irvine City Councilwoman Beth Krom, who talked about LGBT civil rights issues in Irvine and the rest of Orange County, as well as her candidacy for the 48th Congressional District; Jennifer C. Pizer, Lambda Legal's  senior counsel and Marriage Project director, on the broader struggle for LGBT rights and marriage equality; and Irvine United Congregational Church minister Paul Tellstrom, who shared personal and spiritual messages.

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