Sonoma County pride event set to return live in June

The Sonoma County pride event — which was virtual last year because of the pandemic — returns June 1 with Graton Resort and Casino as the title sponsor for all events, joining U.S. Bank.

Last year, organizers staged a virtual parade labeled “Unmask Your Pride.”

This year, the gathering of floats and marchers on June 5 will descend on the Rancheria resort’s parking lot in Rohnert Park for a “Beyond the Rainbow” drive-through event with a “Wizard of Oz” theme.

More than 400 vehicles are expected to round out a list of activities starting June 1 with a livestream of the raising of the Pride Flag at the Rosenberg Building at 11 a.m. in downtown Santa Rosa.

The monthlong celebration aimed at reaching at least 5,000 people includes five “Friends of Dorothy Zoom” cocktail socials with a Wizard of Oz theme; Pride fitness celebration; “Behind the Curtain” movie night; and a drag show on the Petaluma River. It ends with a unique mix of a cocktail social and emergency preparedness discussion on June 30.

Preparation that involves a party is something this market knows all about.

And with 35 years under its belt, one of the North Bay’s largest pride events is aimed at showing that gays and lesbians mean business when it comes to hosting some semblance to social normalcy.

What does a business get out of sponsoring a party thrown by a minority?

“Graton advocates for social justice and our business doesn’t tolerate intolerance,” Tribal Chairman Greg Sarris told the Business Journal.

Sarris describes the financial and community support from Graton as image building, a type of marketing that works over the long haul and sets apart a brand. The title sponsorship runs $40,000 a year. The more than 10 sponsorships available start at $500.

“It really depends on the kind of image you want. This is clearly the image we want. We’re not about (gaming) stereotypes showing big-breasted women and cigar-toting men. But this is about business building on every front. We’re happy to have something for everybody,” he explained.

For organizations like the Graton Resort and Casino, investing in LGBT-related sponsorships enhances its business, Sarris insisted.

“With this market, we want to make sure we have enough martini glasses,” Sarris said.

Beyond the long-term image building, companies invest in the gay market for the spending power in the LGBTQ market, which wields a median household income of $114,182, Statista reported.

Locally, the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber of Commerce embraces that concept — especially in a circle-the-wagons commercial business atmosphere that relies on companies helping other businesses.

As a chamber member, Sonoma County Pride counts on its fellow members’ support. In turn, these businesses rely on an undaunted loyalty from the community to patronize their businesses, chamber Executive Director Peter Rumble pointed out.

“We see that with any group that’s been discriminated against,” Rumble said. “Sonoma County is home to one of the largest gay populations in the state. We have many LGBT business owners, employees and community members. It’s imperative we celebrate that just like we would our Latinx community.”

Like others, Rumble insists the gay community is staunchly loyal to businesses which cater to it.

The metro chamber surveyed its membership — which stands at more than 600 entities coming out of the pandemic — to collect demographic statistics. Those statistics are being assembled in a list of gay-owned businesses as the Gay Insider project.

“The LGBT community respects businesses that support the community,” said Christopher Kren-Mora, Sonoma County Pride president and organizer of an online gay-themed merchandiser called Pride Outlet. The hope is the Gay Insider list will drive traffic to the Pride Outlet site.

Kren-Mora, 46, knows the power of community outreach and marketing connections. He started Feisty Media in 1999 as a Sonoma County marketing firm.

“A business will benefit over and over if it markets to LGBTs all year round,” he said.

But he admits Pride presents a burst of help.

The likes of major corporations Facebook, Airbnb and Twitter must have gotten the message. In 2015 following the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision to legalize gay marriage across the nation, the three Bay Area companies took to the streets during the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade with hundreds of employees.

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