Phoenix Pride

For more images from the event, visit our slide show: Phoenix Pride

By Joseph Golfen

A balloon marked with a rainbow flag flew high above the Steele Indian School Park, Saturday, announcing the arrival of the 28th annual Phoenix Pride Festival. Gays, lesbians and straight supporters from around the valley flooded the normally quite park, to watch live concerts, shop hundreds of booths and get really drunk in the warm weekend sun.

The day kicked off with a ruckus parade up 3rd street, complete with gaudy floats, drag-queens, guys on stilts and lots of classic cars. Over 2000 people walked in the parade and both sides of the streets were buzzing with onlookers.

When the gates of the festival finally opened, crowds poured in eager to get a look at what this year's event held in store.

The grassy park was a sea of white booths and stages, surrounded at all times by people. While most event goers stuck to standard issue weekend wear, there were plenty of others who decided to see how far they could stand out from the crowds. Skinny guys in tight, black hot pants navigated their way through the crowd, along with tattoo and chain-covered bikers and topless girls with only rainbow stickers covering their nipples.

“This years parade and the festival are just going better then we could have hoped for,” said Brandi Sokolosky, executive director of Phoenix Pride. Sokolosky says that visitors to the festival should be sure not to miss the entertainment on the mainstage, including 80’s dance sensations Exposé and rising star Lori Micheals.

“People should also spend some time checking out our booths. We have over 300 exhibits this year, and pretty much anything gay you could ever want, you can buy here,” she adds with a laugh.

She wasn’t lying, either. The exhibits ranged from t-shirt and underwear, to sex toys and belt buckles, to charities and animal shelters.

“I’ve been coming here from three years and one thing I’ve really noticed is a rise in booths for things like foster care, animal shelters and family charities,” says Katie Giovacchini, a 23-year-old ASU student. “People are a lot more community minded now, and most of the gay events are sponsored by some kind of charity.”

Five music stages played to every musical style, from country to dance to acoustic jazz. Drag queens were almost always one stage or another, strutting their stuff and getting the crowds energy up.

There seemed to be an ever-present line to the bar trucks, as well as the margaritia booths and wine bars. There also seemed to always be at least one guy making a lot of drunken noise shouting and laughing about something, though the subject wasn’t always obvious...or intelligible.

Despite the copius amount of events, celebrating being one's self seemed to be the main draw to the event. Pride is a weekend away from social prejudices and a chance from people to be who they are.

Giovacchini says pride is a requisite within the gay community. “You go because it’s the thing to do if you’re gay,” says Giovacchini. “Pride gives people the chance to come down and show some solidarity for their community, and to be in the majority for once, instead of always being different.”