PACIFIC PRIDE FESTIVAL: ‘COME AND FEEL THE PRIDE’
There’s nothing quite as refreshing as taking a dive in the pool on a hot summer day — a point that Pepper Mashay made sure to drive home Saturday afternoon at Chase Palm Park.
“It’s a little hot up here — in more ways than one,” she told the crowd.
Pepper, whose actual name is Jean McClain, proceeded to perform one of her best known songs — “Dive in a Pool,” from the early 2000s TV series “Queer as Folk.”
As she performed, several kids joined her on stage and showed their best move. Emerson Peralta, 8, perhaps stole the show as he jumped and flailed his feet in the air — even performing the worm for the audience.
Ms. McClain, 66, who has performed at other pride festivals throughout Southern California and around the country, described the local event as “refreshing and young.”
She said she was blown away to be joined on stage by so many children.
“I’ve done this for quite a long time, but to see younger kids enjoy the entertainment experience… It’s really nice to see that they like doing it live and not pretend,” she said.
“It’s not something that’s just a fad, it’s real,” Ms. McClain, 66, told the News-Press. “These kids, when they tell you something you must listen and guide them.”
Saturday’s event, hosted by the Pacific Pride Foundation, came on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, which Colette Schabram, executive director of the foundation, said is one of the most pivotal milestones of the LGBTQ+ movement.
“Fifty years later, in Santa Barbara and New York and basically around the world, everybody is really being conscientious about celebrating that moment as a big moment for the start of our equality movement,” Ms. Schabram told the News-Press.
In June, the foundation took a group of students involved in the foundation’s leadership development summer program to Central Park to take part in the Stonewall 50 — WorldPride NYC 2019 event. The New York event marked the anniversary of the riots, as well as the first WorldPride event held in the United States.
Local students marched in front of 3 million spectators — an event that left an impression on the students and the foundation staff who accompanied them.
“To see them fully out and fully themselves — and then being celebrated so much at such a young age — was so thrilling,” Ms. Schabram said. “I think it changed their lives, but it certainly changed mine and our staff’s as well. It was such an honor to be part of it and really feel the pulse of being part of a global pride movement.”
The foundation has several events planned through Tuesday to celebrate Pride Week, and next month will launch the SB Pride Be Kind 21 project — which entails 21 days of kind acts.
Ms. Schabram has been the executive director of the foundation since 2007 and said she has seen a change in the youth participants.
“They know themselves so well and they are willing to advocate for themselves in a really social and conscious way,” she said. “One of the things I’ve noticed as well is they really aren’t single-issue kids. They really look at a wide variety of diversity and inclusion and then they all work on it together.”
Ms. Schabram stressed the importance of having a free festival for all ages to enjoy.
“We want everybody to be able to feel like they have access to the festival,” she said. “We don’t want to put up gates and we don’t want to charge money.
“We want people to come and feel pride and feel proud,” she said. “We’re part of Santa Barbara too.”
Tommy Patterson, who goes by Tommy Boi on stage, performed a number of covers during the event, including “Don’t You Worry Child” — which he said was fitting given the venue.
“This is just a good safe place for people to be themselves,” he told the News-Press. “I just try to do my own thing, which is trying to be a good example of someone who is a nice person. I’m not trying to be somebody that people look up to, but just trying to do my part to be a good example. You can be gay, you can be anything and you can still do anything you want to do and be great at it.”
Various groups and vendors had booths set up in the park, selling clothing and disbursing information — all with a pride-centric theme. There was plenty of rainbows and tie dye to go around.
BJ Weiss has been volunteering with the Pacific Pride Foundation for the past three years. She told the News-Press that events like Saturday serve as a good way to show how mighty the LGBTQ+ community is.
“I think the community doesn’t recognize how large the queer population is, and their allies,” she said. “It’s a fun place for families and kids to come — it’s really quite terrific.”
Ms. Weiss, who worked to spread awareness in the onset of the Aids epidemic, was inspired by the number of young people involved with the foundation.
“They’re articulate and they’re bright, and they don’t have the same definitions that we did when I was younger,” she said. “They don’t feel the need to label themselves as one or the other. They can just say ‘I’m fluid’ or ‘I’m not sure yet’…. We want to support all of those options.
“These kids have freedom and they have support,” she added. “There isn’t an adult here that wouldn’t help out one of these kids if they needed help.”
She encouraged advocates of the LGBTQ+ community to keep moving forward.
“I’m part of the generation that had to fight for everything,” she said. “I remember what it’s like to know that your government doesn’t see you as fully human… You can’t stop. You have to keep fighting. There are always issues and there’s always backlash.”
Saturday’s event featured a pride rally and love period, as well as a number of dance and musical performances. A pair of drag shows were held, featuring LA queens with Borgia Bloom and local queens with Vivian Storm.
The Vivian Storm group took the stage after Ms. McClain and danced to 90s classics such as TLC’s “No Scrubs,” which had the crowd jumping and gyrating as much as the performers.
Hundreds of volunteers helped make the pride event possible, including Briel Todd and a man named Colton — who both attend Santa Barbara City College. The two served as guest greeters and said that Saturday’s event helps brings people closer together.
“I think it’s super important to have an actual, affirmed place that says yes,” Colton told the News-Press. “It’s good to be who you are. Even though Santa Barbara feels very welcoming for the most part, still having that aggressive actual saying yes is really cool.”