By Dirk Smith, M.Sc, SDL (He/Him)
As Flagstaff, Arizona gears up for its 27th annual Pride in the Pines Festival it has unfortunately had to contend with anti-LGBTQ+ hatred and prejudice directed towards it from right wing extremists who have targeted the annual event. Sadly, this is hardly unique as LGBTQ+ pride festivals, events, bars, clubs, and other cultural gatherings all over the USA have experienced a rise in bigotry, prejudice, and hatred against the LGBTQ+ community from religious conservatives. These attacks and threats on our community have been a sobering reminder of what “Pride” represents and is uniting the LGBTQ+ community once again to stand up together against hatred and discrimination.
Flagstaff Pride is planning for a fun and family friendly LGBTQ+ pride event on June 17th. Dubbed “Pride in the Pines”, the 27th edition of the festival will feature a wide array of events, entertainment, shows, local community vendors and businesses, as well as the Flagstaff Pride’s first ever LGBTQ+ pride parade.
Our managing editor of sports, David “Dirk” Smith sat down with the President of Flagstaff Pride, Deb Taylor to learn more about the festival and help people learn more about what to look forward to if this is their first time attending.
Dirk Smith (DS): Wow, this is the 27th year for Flagstaff Pride, that’s really exciting! I just did an interview with Downtown Tempe Authority, and they literally just had their first ever pride this year, that’s quite a difference. But for Flagstaff, even after 27 years, this is your first year holding a pride parade as well?
Deb Taylor (DT): And honestly, it took us 27 years to have a parade. We’re super excited to have it and we have 36 entries for our first parade with about 400 people marching/walking, which we feel is super successful. So, we’re super excited to be able to offer this for the first time.
DS: 36 entries? That’s a lot for the first one!
DT: Indeed! For the first one we weren’t sure what we would get with everything going on. But we got a lot of support and people wanting to be involved. Our parade is following the same route that our holiday Christmas parade follows up here in the winter time. We recently just had our meeting with our participants, and everybody is super excited and really supportive. It’s going to be colorful too, we’ll have a sea of rainbow flags, trans flags and other pride flags waving all over.
DS: Pride is all about being colorful and being fabulous!
DT: It is going to be colorful and fabulous. It’s about the visibility. Our theme is “together, we march”, which is our theme for everything, “together, we dance” and similar type themes. It’s about visibility for the LGBTQ+ community because our family, coworkers, business owners are part of that community. What the LGBTQ+ community brings to Flagstaff is momentum, experience, and wisdom. Flagstaff is a border town where we sit on the largest reservation, the Navajo Nation and we’re excited to have them come celebrate Pride with us in Flagstaff as well.
DS: Especially important to have representation from indigenous communities which have been vastly underrepresented at pride, but they’re a huge part of our culture.
DT: It’s about building that inclusive pride and while we’ve been guilty of that in the past ourselves, we are focusing on how we can build that inclusion now. This year we have our very first strategic plan to bring a Northern Arizona Alliance which includes everybody in Northern Arizona, including the reservation, and communities within greater Flagstaff, that we’re going to make sure they all have a chair at the table. We did over 40 hours of interviews with stakeholders and community members that we’ve listened to and learned from, both good and bad. As a result, we have started implementing those results and making changes, such as hosting our first pride parade. People wanted to have a parade, so we applied for a grant which we received and made it possible for us to have one. Overall, It’s a three year plan and I’m confident we will succeed.
DS: That sounds awesome and it’s great to see ya’ll working to adapt and grow right into the future! What else can people look forward to at the festival after the parade?
DT: From 12pm to 9pm on Saturday is the festival after the parade at Thorpe Park Sports Complex. Our headliner is Nina Sky and we are excited to have two RuPaul’s Drag Race queens coming to entertain, Kerri Colby, and Salina EsTitties. We have local bands performing, include Black Lemon, The Pübes which is a three-piece lesbian rock band. We also have, for the very first time, a dedicated drag stage where we will have 36 performers throughout the day. We are a family friendly pride, including a kids area and three bouncy houses. We will also have games, crafts, and tie dye stations. The Public Library is coming in with their bookmobile as well.
On Friday night on June 16, we’re doing a free movie night for the first time. We got the license from Disney to show Luca and it is free to our families and our community We’ll have one of our food vendors will be there with popcorn, cotton candy, non-alcoholic drinks as well.
DS: Nice! That’s going to be a lot of fun! Will there be an afterparty as well?
DT: Yep! It’ll be at Orpheum theatre with five Queens coming up from Phoenix and some of our local queens all performing. That show starts at 10 and then we’ll have a 21+ dance party as well. Then on Sunday, we do a big brunch from 11 to 2 at Collin’s Bar, who’s a sponsor. So, we have a whole weekend of events going on. We have some family stuff going on Friday, we have the festival, the after party, which is an all-age event, which it has always been for years but if you’re under 16, you have to have a guardian with you. Then we close it out with a brunch which is a perfect way to sit down with everybody and break some bread. Then we take a break, and we start all over again.
DS: So, we do have to address the elephant in the room, which is all this bombardment of negativity from anti-LGBTQ+ bigots who want to cancel culture pride. As much as I don’t want to bring up their drama but the one question I do have is because it is the whole drama about drag shows for all age. You and I, we’ve been to drag shows we know exactly what to expect. So, a lot of this comes from the ignorance of people who don’t even know what drag is. What can families and parents look forward to in terms of all ages drag show in regard to the performances.
DT: They can expect an amazing show wardrobe, amazing dancing, and lip-syncing, maybe some real singing. All the performers from Phoenix have titles and raise money for charities. Desiree DeMornay just entered her reign as Miss Phoenix Pride. Maya McKenzie was Miss Phoenix Pride in 2017. We have the current reigning Miss Gay, Arizona. I think that’s her title. Janae Starr and Gray Matter are in the Imperial Court. I don’t know if Kim has a title, but she is very involved and very talented as well. These are professional performers who know it’s a family friendly event, there’s no nudity, no sexual overtones, nothing like that.
DS: It sounds like it’s going to be a great show!
DT: Back on June 2nd, we had a First Friday Artwalk. For the first time we did a public drag show in Heritage Square, and it included a drag story time. She read ‘Twas the Night Before Pride and she dressed up like the mushroom the storybook. The kids were dancing and having a lot of fun. The parents enjoyed it, and we had people crossing the street coming over to see what was happening. People were very supportive, and Flagstaff is that kind of town that is diverse and inclusive. Flagstaff was the very first city in the state of Arizona, to fly the rainbow flag on city grounds. It goes up June 1. And it stays until June 30. The current mayor is walking in our parade, and they were even at the drag queen story time where they presented us with a proclamation for Pride Month. I was nervous initially; I’m not going to lie. I was nervous about the public because of all the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, the hatred and everything. But the community has been so supportive, inclusive, welcoming, and engaged, it is great.
DS: We’re making a statement because this legislation and anti-LGBTQ+ prejudice is a reminder of why pride exists. We must show everybody that love trumps hate.
DT: Flagstaff Pride has been going on for 27 years in the community, it started as a small picnic and then has evolved into where we are today. We are advocates for more resources for LGBTQ+ people with our end goal of the festival and everything we’ve been doing for 27 years has been to establish an LGBTQ+ Resource Center. We’re working towards that here in northern Arizona, it takes money and time. A Resource Center is made of a village, so we’re reaching out to all of our partners and we’re going to get there. We’re getting there. Northern Arizona is very grateful for our community partners, their ally ship and the community in which we serve. We’re very proud to be a part of it.
DS: Wonderful! Learn more and support Flagstaff Pride at www.flagstaffpride.com