Pride in the Desert Moves to Armory Park

October 5, 2012

By Teya Vitu

Last year, Tucson Pride decided to go mainstream with its Pride on Parade for the LGBT community by parading through the 2nd Saturdays festivities. They had no idea how they would be received.

“It was phenomenal,” said Karon Bohlender, Tucson Pride’s outgoing president. “People had a blast with us coming through there. I got goosebumps. When we turned the corner onto Congress, that’s when I realized people were six deep to watch the parade. It was, like, wow! We’ve been waiting for years to this.”

The 2011 Pride on Parade went so well for the local Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community that Tucson Pride decided to keep the parade Downtown and also move its 35th annual Pride in the Desert Downtown for the first time.

The LGBT theme day will revolve around Armory Park on Oct 13, the same day as 2nd Saturdays and Tucson Meet Yourself just a couple blocks away. Bohlender would love to have people from those events wander over to Pride in the Desert.

“Come, park and festival hop,” she said. “People will be curious, for the most part. I think they will see a back to a grassroots community gathering. People can hang out. There will be a children’s area. We want it to be a family friendly event.”

Pride in the Desert is also the only major event that day with a liquor license.

“We get to be the party festival,” Bohlender added. “Our festival is free.”

Pride on Parade’s route this year is on 6th Avenue, starting at 18th street and moving north to Armory Park. The parade starts at 11 a.m. on Oct. 13 and ends at Armory Park, where it launches the Pride in the Desert festival, which fills the day from noon to 8 p.m.

“What we wanted to do was combine the parade and festival,” Bohlender said. “After the parade worked out so well last year, we said, yeah, we can do this. We really wanted to celebrate Downtown. Downtown is slowly becoming a vibrant, happening place.”

The local LGBT community has put on a parade since the early 2000s but always at times and locations that had minimal mainstream exposure. The early years had Sunday morning parades on 4th Avenue. They moved to Friday night before Pride in the Desert with the parade down Country Club Road from Broadway to Reid Park in 2007-08. The parade went back to 4th Avenue for the two years prior to last year’s 2nd Saturdays parade.

The Pride in the Desert, too, had been out of sight at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium.

“The festival’s theme is Pride Links Us Together,” Bohlender said. “We look for ways that we link ourselves to the community and the community links to us. People have been more at ease with our community. We do belong.”

Pride in the Desert will have entertainment from 2 to 8 p.m., featuring the likes of Flight School, Leila Lopez, Jaime J, Grite Leon, Janee Starr, Cirque Roots, Courtney Robbins and Black Cherry Burlesque.

At 6:30 p.m., there will be a multi-faith mass commitment ceremony at the Armory Park Senior Center.

If the day-long Armory Park festivities aren’t enough for you, an after-party is set for 9 p.m. at Hotel Congress. Those who want to get a head-start can head over to Riverpark Inn, 350 S. Freeway St., the day before, on Oct. 12, for Queertopia: A Pride Pool Party.