Before moving to Denver, PrideFest, Pride Month, Pride Parade were all concepts i had only ever heard of. Dreams within dreams that were usually only spoken of by disgruntled conservatives on the news or in right-wing, religious documentaries about the evils of secularism. I once heard a few older gays speak of Pride in San Francisco or New York. When they spoke of it, there was always a grin on their face and a twinkle in their eye. "You wouldn't believe the things you could see there" they would reminisce. But in Little Rock, Arkansas, Pride was something only spoken of... never done. I wondered what it would be like to be surrounded by people "just like me".
Four years ago I moved from Arkansas to Denver. Pridefest was three weeks after I arrived in Denver. I will still in the beginning stages of coming out to family. I didn't even think about going.
The next year, despite much sorrow and gnashing of teeth, i was scheduled to work all of PrideFest weekend. I begged and pleaded to have at least an hour or two to go see this wondrous sight that must be PrideFest. Instead, i was relegated to work my fingers to the bone while the great masses of happy, drunk homos came pouring into the shop for frappaccinos and iced coffee. I was wildly jealous of everyone in their rainbow socks and "I eat tacos" pins.
The year after that, my gf was still living in New York at the time. I missed her dreadfully and the roomie decided drag me to the parade and get me drunk. It was fantastic....if you call being intoxicated in blazing heat fantastic. i remember dancing and music and girls in bikinis. a guy in florescent pink underwear shook his junk in my face and the next thing i know i am holding on to a toilet for dear life (the world really was spinning away) apparently, shots of tequila don't land well on an empty stomach.
Last year, i had recently been dumped by the aforementioned gf. (see dating blues:the beginning) I was pretty sure my life was over. It was really quite pitiful. BUT, i was not deterred from heading down to PrideFest...even if i was completely alone. I donned my "Legalize Gay" t-shirt that i had just bought with the gf three weeks earlier and walked down to the festivities. I wandered around the booths and took in some of the Main Stage action. I kept running into acquaintances who asked "Where's your girlfriend?" and "are you here alone?" I bought a turkey leg and a beer and sat in the grass. I went home soon after feeling utterly shitty.
This year, however, was much, much different. As you may know, i decided to work PrideFest instead of partake in the activities. The GLBT Center organizes it every year. They have managed to produced the Third Largest Festival in the nation and the Seventh Largest Parade... and I had the opportunity too work on the production team. Civic Center Park in Denver (in between the Capitol and other government buildings) is divided into five sections. Each section getting a Quadrant Coordinator (QC) and a Volunteer Captain (VC). I was VC for one of the sections. Meaning: my QC would give me a set of projects and i would coordinate volunteers to accomplish said projects. I was a bit leery of this particular venture having no relevant experience. As it turns out, volunteer coordination is really no different than being a team lead or shift manager or any type of mid-level management. I was in my element.
Friday, June 15th, the production team spent all day setting up the park for the festival. There must have been thirty to forty of us working together to put up tables, hang scrim, place banners and other general event set-up. I worked hard with my QC to make sure our section was set up appropriately. Over a span of about 15 hour i watched the park transform into a glittery, rainbow wonderland. There was a kid area where there would be a petting zoo, games for tots and other family oriented activities. There was also a country stage, a mechanical bull and a VIP section for the posh festival goers to drink and watch the main stage from on high. There was a youth section where the 12-21 population could hang out. There was a Latin Stage, a Dance World and beer pong. And course, there were the vendors. Every type of business you can think of was represented. The turkey leg vendors, the booze people, hat sellers, belt makers, lemonade stands (yummers). There was a bead stand and a native american jewelry booth. There were plenty of pot grower stands and quite the array of gay underwear sellers. Around 10:00 pm friday night we were all set up and ready to meet at 6:00 am the next morning the get the festival running.
My favorite part of the day was the Dyke March. The march was led into the park by the Dykes on Bikes. I and a few other volunteers walked ahead of them into the crowd yelling for people to move out of the way. I almost died with excitement hearing the motorcycles behind me. Butches, gunning their motors, grinning proudly at their girls riding bitch. The raw power alone was enough to make my knees weak but the sight of so many handsome dykes on bikes nearly killed me. (i want to ride a motorcycle so badly!!) I noticed a cute salt and pepper butch riding solo...and was in the process of working up the nerve to ask for a ride around the park when i was called away some other task. ARG! The rest of the day went swimmingly...by about 5:00 pm my feet were hurting, my hands were dirty and there was sweat trickling down my back. By 10:30 pm i was dropping into bed already anxious for Sunday.
Sunday, June 17th. Main attraction: The Parade. From about 6:30 am till about 9:00 am my QC, my volunteers and I hauled barricade to get ready for the Parade. I( moved so much barricade my arms were a bit jello-y the next day.) Around 9:30 am we were ready for the parade to come down Colfax avenue enter the park and head north onto Broadway. I had my volunteers stationed for crowd control and directing traffic. I was positioned towards the end of the parade where cars and floats could unload people. I spent three hours bossing people around:
It really was an amazing experience: there is just something about being involved in making the festival happen than heightens the sense of community that PrideFest can bring. My QC and his partner have been doing it for seven years now...and i can myself making it a yearly habit. I hope everyone else had a great Pride Month, that you were able to feel a part of a community bigger than yourself. And if you don't have a PrideFest in your area...you should come to Denver...We'll show you a good time :-)