Celebration brings out PRIDE

Open up for a day in the park for Stanislaus PRIDE Day 2008.

The third annual pride celebration for the Central Valley's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community brings a day of free music, art and family activities to Graceada Park on Saturday.

"I think the vision is that Modesto becomes the pride destination in the Central Valley in the next five years," said Jerime Black, Pride Day 2008 committee chair. "This is a family event. It's about celebrating openly — that's why we're having a parade and festival out in the open."

The event, sponsored by the Stanislaus PRIDE Center, has grown each year from its beginning as a evening party at the Fat Cat Music House & Lounge in 2006 to its move to Graceada Park last year.

The celebration will include a diverse lineup of largely local gay and gay-friendly performers in Mancini Bowl. More than 75 organizations and vendors will have booths offering information and merchandise.

The festival will kick off with a motorcycle parade down the length of McHenry Avenue led by the Central Valley California GURLZ, a lesbian bike club. Once the riders arrive at the park, the opening ceremonies will begin.

The day's entertainment schedule will include performances by the California Ballroom Dancers, the Owl Empire of Stanislaus County, Mystic Fire Bellydancers, hip-hop dance fusion group Strut and Sondra with the Gay Color Guard.

Music includes transgender folk duo Coyote Grace, Sacramento all-girl pop group The Hot Toddies, Merced electro-pop performer Moon Trent and homo-hop artist MC Midone. The local headliner will be PEECH (see Page G-7).

Last year, some 1,500 people attended the festival. This year, organizers expect between 2,000 and 2,500 to spend the day with them in the park.

Black said that as the event has grown in popularity, so has its support from the business community, with sponsorships going up. All proceeds go toward the PRIDE Center.

Organizers also held two other PRIDE-related events earlier in the year, a Spring Fling Dance and Comedy Night, to warm up the community for the big day.

"The idea is that generated more buzz and awareness throughout the whole year. The most powerful factor is word of mouth, so people are definitely hearing about it," Black said. "There is still some ground to be gained as far as awareness is concerned. But we have local businesses who are clearly supportive."

In addition to the day's music, organizers have invited artists from the Third Thursday Art Walk to sell and display their work throughout the day.

The day will end with the official PRIDE Day afterparty from 9:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. at the Fat Cat. Five DJs, including DJ O from The Brave Bull and emcee Moon Trent. Admission is free before 10:30 p.m. and $10 afterward.