San Jose prepares for Pride festival
Officials with San Jose Pride are preparing for a fun festival later this month even though, as with last year, there will be no parade.
The festival, themed "Moving Forward Together," will take place 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, August 20, and Sunday, August 21 at Discovery Meadow in downtown San Jose’s Guadalupe River Park. (San Jose Pride is formally known as the Gay Pride Celebration Committee of San Jose Inc.)
While there won’t be a parade, organizers have lined up a bevy of entertainers. Headliners include legendary singer Martha Wash ("It’s Raining Men") and drag icon Lady Bunny.
Board member Ray Mueller attributed the lack of a parade to financial concerns.
"It was just too late, even if we had gotten the money, to try to do it this year," he said.
However, he said the board’s goal is "to try to come out of this financially stable, and work on recreating the parade for next year."
Mueller said a parade would cost about $17,000 due to expenses including fees for street closures. Last year, Pride had a deficit of about $30,000, according to Mueller, who joined the board earlier this year.
The Pride festival started in 1971 as a rally in San Jose’s St. James Park.
"The whole purpose of this parade is to honor and continue those traditions," Mueller said. "We certainly don’t want to do it unless we can do it right."
Mueller said Pride officials have "cleared up" the deficit through a variety of fundraising efforts, and they’re committed to staying "in the black."
He couldn’t say exactly how much Pride currently has in the bank, indicating the amount changes frequently. However, he said, "We’re not really worried about getting through this phase. ... At this point, it’s volunteers we need."
It takes about $30,000 to pay for advance fees and other costs before the event, Mueller said. Pride’s annual budget is about $250,000.
He said that as of Monday, August 8, sponsors are contributing $29,500. With fundraising efforts continuing, he said he was confident they would meet their target.
One factor in the apparent success has been more than $8,000 raised through the Friends of Pride program. As of Monday, 34 people were participating, Mueller said. People in the program get free entry to the festival Sunday and access to the VIP area, which will include a special selection of food and beverages.
Festival director Gary Walker said Monday that preparations "are going very well."
He said despite tight finances, "The reality is you can still create a very fun and safe and enjoyable festival."
Pride is receiving some help in putting on the fun this year from new sponsors including the local car dealership Mini of Stevens Creek. James Cheatham, the dealership’s general manager and center operator, said they’re contributing $2,500 to Pride.
"We’re happy to be sponsors," Cheatham said. "As a gay person, a gay man, I was very, very pleased to be able to help out."
In partnership with Rainbow Chamber of Commerce Silicon Valley, Pride’s creating a space specifically for businesses to market themselves at this year’s festival.
Mueller said changes for 2011 include moving the popular dance stage area, which had been "hidden," to the main section of the park.
He’s also looking for better attendance at Pride this year.
In June 2010, Pride’s board decided to move the festival to August, so as not to compete with other Pride festivals taking place in June.
Mueller said many people didn’t realize the switch had happened, and attendance was down last year. Pride has been holding numerous events, such as Family Fun Night at an Aqui restaurant on Tuesday, August 9, and it has been working to make sure people know the dates of this year’s festival, he said.
"We’re hoping this year we’ll get past a lot of those, ’Oh, I didn’t realize you moved it’" remarks, Mueller said.
He said organizers expect to have about 10,000 people this year.
"That was average when we were running it in June," he said.
Admission is free Saturday. Tickets for Sunday are $15 at the gate, but they’re $10 if purchased Saturday.
For more information, visit http://www.sanjosepride.com.