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North Bay summer of pride

'Off-the-charts positive energy': Sonoma County Pride begins Friday

About 4,500 people are expected at the three-day event to kick off Pride Month in June. The festival includes a Saturday parade through downtown Santa Rosa.
"We have a real mix of gay entrepreneurs up here that make the area even more gay-friendly than it already is," said Michael Volpatt, owner of Big Bottom Market and co-owner of Equality Vines.
While Sonoma County has been in the spotlight for LGBTQIA-friendly events and venues for decades, the counties to the south and east this summer have a growing number of events aimed at visitors.

Sonoma County Pride, the largest pride celebration in Sonoma County, begins today and runs through Sunday, including a parade in downtown Santa Rosa from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

JD Donovan, president of Sonoma County Pride, said the celebration expects about 4,500 attendees. “The parade route will cover six blocks of downtown Santa Rosa. We’re keeping half of Fourth Street closed this year for an additional stage. Old Courthouse Square, where the main stage will be, is a fabulous venue,” said Donovan.

Donovan said the event requires a year’s worth of organization, funding for permits and expenses like paying for parking meters in the closed streets, and significant set-up and clean-up. The events present an opportunity for the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) community to build relationships with North Bay businesses.

“We go door-to-door (along the parade route) and meet with every business that will be impacted. We educate them on decorations and what to expect. We also look for sponsors for the events. This year our sponsors include Graton Rancheria for entertainment, Hansel Subaru for the parade, and Sonoma Media Investments, which donated space in print media and on the radio to inform people,” said Christopher Kren-Mora, member of the executive board of Sonoma County Pride.

Peter Rumble, CEO of the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber of Commerce, said the event is a success because it brings “off-the-charts positive energy” to Santa Rosa. Rumble added that its executive board organizes the event well.

“Last year, they showed us how great an event they could put on. Other events used Sonoma County Pride as a model for what could be done in the square. This year, we’re looking forward to it being bigger and better. You can visibly see the support. There’s no shortage of rainbow flags on the businesses downtown. I love having SCP in the heart of the city,” said Rumble.

Rumble said the event especially benefited restaurants and drinking establishments surrounding Old Courthouse Square.

“They saw a really strong weekend. People wanted to get out of the sun and into the shade and there are so many great options downtown,” said Rumble.

Jake Ward, founder of North Bay Cabaret, helped organize the entertainment for one of the festival's events this year. He said celebrations like Sonoma County Pride that bring LGBTQIA entertainers to the North Bay create welcoming spaces.

“Santa Rosa doesn’t have a gay bar, much less a full-fledged LGBT performance space. With all the upcoming performances on the calendar, Sonoma County Pride temporarily creates LGBTQ-friendly spaces,” said Ward.

Ward said the entertainment is one of the main reasons that visitors from the East Bay and San Francisco come.

“The performers have followings. Their fans will travel to see their favorite artists,” said Ward.

Orlando Kai O’Shea, a member of Sonoma County’s trans community, said he is excited to see local businesses support LGBTQIA visitors and residents.

“In this political climate, I think that it’s important for businesses and government officials to come out and show their support in any way possible. Pride is a great opportunity to do that, both financially and in simple actions such as advertising events on social media to highlight that you are an active ally to LGBTQ individuals. Pride flags in windows or hallways of political offices during Pride month send a strong message. Visibility is the key. That means not just being visible as an ally to the LGBTQ community, but to the larger community,” said O’Shea.

North Bay summer of pride

'Off-the-charts positive energy': Sonoma County Pride begins Friday

About 4,500 people are expected at the three-day event to kick off Pride Month in June. The festival includes a Saturday parade through downtown Santa Rosa.
"We have a real mix of gay entrepreneurs up here that make the area even more gay-friendly than it already is," said Michael Volpatt, owner of Big Bottom Market and co-owner of Equality Vines.
While Sonoma County has been in the spotlight for LGBTQIA-friendly events and venues for decades, the counties to the south and east this summer have a growing number of events aimed at visitors.