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Arts & Culture

San Diego Pride: Hybrid Events, Full-Strength Heart

Marchers participate in the San Diego Pride Resilience March on July 11, 2021.
Carlo Toribio
Marchers participate in the San Diego Pride Resilience March on July 11, 2021.

With virtual and in-person events, some scaled back or moved outdoors, Pride is back. Plus, this year, the inaugural Larry T. Baza Art and Culture Award honors Diversionary's Matt Morrow.

Fernando López, executive director of San Diego Pride said that close to 750,000 people viewed the seven and a half hour virtual program they shared in 2020. That's about three times the attendees to the annual parade during a typical year — and for that they are thankful.

"No, it wasn't the same. But it was really something beautiful," López said.

How to attend:

For a full listing of San Diego Pride events, including reservation links, check the schedule here.

Spirit of Stonewall Rally: Friday, July 16 at 6 p.m. at the Hillcrest Pride Flag.

Pride Live: Saturday, July 17 beginning at 9 a.m. on Facebook Live or YouTube

While the San Diego event industry has begun to barrel ahead full-steam, large-scale projects like Pride didn't really have enough time for the necessary advance planning. Plus, community-wide, there's a lot of grief.


"While we're trying to plan and prepare, we're also losing loved ones and friends and being severed from our employment and the places and people that we love. As we were also enduring the impacts of COVID-19, trying to foresee the future was nearly impossible," López said.

They considered a trio of potential budgets for various stages of lockdown, reopening or something in the middle. As the vaccines rolled out and Pride's July event date approached, the organization honed in on that middle ground.

"Rather than bring together a quarter million folks in one space, we said, okay, we're going to find venues all throughout the county. Smaller, outdoors. Include some virtual components because some folks aren't yet vaccinated. Some people aren't able to get vaccinated. Some folks just aren't feeling safe and ready to come out yet. And with the Delta variant, that is super understandable. So we wanted to give folks as many options and opportunities as possible, for as much as possible, as long as possible and keep those events free and open to the public because we've all been through it this year. I think folks are just ready to come back and connect," López said.

San Diego Pride enters its biggest weekend with a mix of in-person and virtual events, a milestone for construction of the new SDSU stadium in Mission Valley, and KPBS relaunches its Cinema Junkie podcast about all things film.

$26.5 million economic impact

Pride's July events and the resultant sales, tickets, hospitality and tourism in a typical year routinely result in a major economic impact for the area, said López. A 2018 study by San Diego State University's Center for Hospitality and Tourism clocked this figure at $26.5 million — more than double the impact from four years prior in 2014.


Pride is the largest single day event in the region, and — again, in a typical year — López said that only a third of the attendance is local.

This year, the event is spread out: across virtual and on-site platforms, and also over a ten-day period, with approximately forty individual events, López said.

It started last weekend with She Fest and the Resilience March — a pandemic era stand-in for the parade.

"Parades take a ton of planning and coordination and hundreds of organizations and nonprofits. We just didn't have that logistical time. So we said, you know what, let's do something for the folks who really want to get out there and celebrate. And instead of marching out of Hillcrest, let's — it's all about restoration, right? It's all about resilience — so let's March back into community. We started in Balboa Park, and instead of a quarter million folks, we had about 16,000 march into the heart of Hillcrest," López said. "It was a good old fashioned protest."

Participants marching in San Diego Pride's Resilience March on July 11, 2021.
Carlo Toribio
Participants marching in San Diego Pride's Resilience March on July 11, 2021.

A disproportionately impacted community

The hybrid model, López said, is a way to meet as many people's needs as possible.

"If you want to stay home and just listen to some great LGBTQ artists and entertainers from the safety of your living room, do that. If you want to have a backyard party, great, do that, let's help you celebrate that," López said. "We've got folks who wish we had done more and were disappointed that we couldn't put on the parade and festival, and totally understand that. I missed that too. And there are folks who think, you know, it was too much too soon and they weren't ready. I understand that as well. It's scary out there. This pandemic disproportionately impacted the LGBT community from health disparity to economic employment impact."

López said that 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+. "Their families throw them out like garbage," they said.

There's a systemic gap in networks of support, safe housing, employment and healthcare — all of which worsened the pandemic's toll.

"I don't know that we were ever too worried about 'normal' around here," López said about a potential return to normalcy for San Diego Pride this year and beyond. "But, what does queer pride look like? What does LGBT pride look like? Like, our community has been through it over the years."

One constant is adaptation, López said. The LGBTQ+ community has supported each other in new and innovative ways as it continues to grapple with survival amid criminalization, inequality or the AIDs pandemic. "So I don't know that there is ever a normal. I think we're always changing."

Virtual, hybrid and in-person art and culture events

This year, there are plenty of town halls, workshops, performances and art programs on the virtual platform throughout Pride week. The San Diego Women's Chorus "Closer to Fine" show broadcasts online Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon.

The annual Pride 5K will be virtual, meaning that participants log their 5k anywhere, at any point over the weekend.

The Studio Door's annual "PROUD+" onsite exhibition includes a virtual component, a browsable exhibition catalog. But in person visitors can browse the juried exhibition of works from across the country with an artist reception Saturday evening.

In person, Diversionary Theatre's Teen-Versionary project will present live performances of "Dear ONE: Love and Longing in Midcentury Queer America," a new play by Josh Gershick. While Diversionary continues to renovate its theater, the performances will be in the outdoor courtyard at St. Paul's Cathedral.

RELATED: Taking A Page From The Past In ‘Dear ONE’

Gottmik will perform at Pride at the Park on Saturday, July 17, 2021.
Courtesy of San Diego Pride
Gottmik will perform at Pride at the Park on Saturday, July 17, 2021.

Saturday afternoon, Oceanside Museum of Art will host a screening of the short film "Mermaid," with a Q&A with the filmmaker and actor. A donation includes entrance to the museum.

Drag performances are a staple for Pride, and there's a handful of options this year. Saturday afternoon, The Hive on Convoy will host a family-friendly event with drag artists. Saturday's Pride at the Park takes place at Viejas Casino's park, with performances from drag artists from RuPaul's Drag Race and DJs, and the City Heights Library hosts a Pride Storytime with Friidae on Saturday morning.

Because all of the venue spaces were donated to San Diego Pride this year, López said this freed up their budget to pay performing artists — a sector hit hard during the pandemic — for the festival and their year-round programming

"We're hiring hundreds of LGBTQ and BIPOC artists to perform, like dancers and DJs and drag queens, and, you know, poets and authors and visual artists," López said.

The Larry T. Baza Arts and Culture Award

This year's Spirit of Stonewall Rally will take place outdoors at the Pride flag on Friday evening, and will include a presentation of the 2021 Spirit of Stonewall Awards, including the first annual Larry T. Baza Arts and Culture Award.

Larry Baza was a driving force in both the art world and in activism. He worked with San Diego Pride when they first formalized as a nonprofit, and was the organization's first Latinx co-chair. Baza died in February of COVID-19.

The award goes to Matt Morrow, Diversionary Theatre's executive artistic director.

"I know that Larry loved Matt Morrow so much, and was really just inspired by what he was able to bring to Diversionary," López said. They pointed to the particular way Morrow steered Diversionary's intersectional, anti-racist approach to storytelling that is inclusive to women, trans, nonbinary and POC voices. "I know that that was something that Larry Baza really cared about."