By Megan Wadding, October 2016 Issue.
Each October, LGBTQ History Month, attendees from near and far head to southern Arizona to participate in two of the state’s oldest Pride celebrations.
For 2016, Tucson’s Pride presents its 16th annual Pride on Parade and block party Sept. 30 and its 39th annual Pride in the Desert Oct. 1, which returns to its original location at Reid Park this year.
“Arizona is very special in the sense of community,” said John Foley, Tucson Pride president. “Pride definitely brings people from all over our state. With the decision to return to our roots at Reid Park, we are expecting quite a few [attendees] this year.”
An International Procession
This year, Tucson Pride will broadcast live coverage of the parade around the world.
“Everything is broadcasted live through internet connection,” explained Foley. “WMRX [Radio Network] will be announcing each parade entry as it passes by Sky Bar and Brooklyn Pizza.”
According to Foley, more than 250 people will be marching in the parade, which will run from along Fourth Avenue from Second to Ninth street. The after-party, which will feature DJ Remix, his crew and DJ Lady Finger, will take place 7 p.m. at Sky Bar and Brooklyn Pizza. Admission, $5 dollar cover, will benefit Tucson Pride.
According to Foley, this year’s theme, “Get Ready,” was picked in accordance with all of the new things that Tucson Pride has planned, including “a new look, a new vision, and new energy.”
The energy will certainly be off the charts on the festival’s main stage, which will host performances by Velo, Debby Holiday and Kennedy Davenport.
“We have three majorly talented artist gracing our stage this year,” Foley said. “[And] I have two very wonderfully talented board members in charge of all entertainment: Lucinda Holliday and Tempest DuJour. I have come to trust their judgment and their incredible abilities.”
Holliday and DuJour will also be sharing the stage this year as co-emcees.
In his new role as Tucson Pride president, Foley said one of his goals for the organization is growing the size of the celebration.
“I would really like to see Tucson Pride have a no-fee admission policy in the next two years,” Foley said. “I want the festival to grow. Each year we should be out doing the past year in parade, festival, entertainment and fundraising.”
Seasons of Change
Earlier this year, Tucson Pride announced a new board of directors.
“These people have such a dedication that I can’t help but think of them as special,” said Foley. “They have poured their time, energy and sweat into this year’s Pride. They are a remarkable team to work with, not to mention, they all are tremendous advocates for our community.”
Foley, who was brought on as the organization’s president July 17, said he has many big goals for the organization.
“I became president because it was time for new blood and imagination to move Tucson Pride forward,” he explained, adding that he wants to “re-set the bar of standards” that are currently in place.
Items on Foley’s to-do list, include a new plan to use the entire next year to focus on fundraising and having more community involvement.
“Our mission, first and foremost, is to be completely transparent in our business practices,” Foley said. “This community has stood by Tucson Pride for 39 years, [so] it is high time that our organization starts giving back.”
Another goal of Foley’s is to having the Tucson Lesbian and Gay Alliance organization “recognized as an organization of leaders driven by cultural diversity.”
Foley added that all of the Pride board’s goals are a collaboration of each and every person in the organization.
“Our organization needs this community and our community needs a gay pride organization they can be proud of supporting,” he said.
Tucson’s 16th annual Pride on Parade
7 p.m. Sept. 30
Along Fourth Avenue, Tucson.
Tucson’s 39th annual Pride in the Desert festival
900 S. Randolph Way, Tucson
Velo Returns to Tucson
Before he hits the road to promote his new EP, Woof, Velo will return to Tucson, Oct. 1, to take the stage at 39th annual Pride in the Desert festival.
Echo caught up with the Tucson native to find out what audiences can expect from his homecoming performance.
Echo: I read that you are originally from Arizona. Do you come back often?
Velo: I was born in Mexico, but lived [in Arizona] my whole life and even went to NAU. I was raised in Tucson [but] I don’t come back a lot. [Since leaving for] college and then moving to Seattle, I probably visit [every] two to three years.
Echo: Are you looking forward to performing in your hometown?
Velo: I’m so excited to come back … to come back in this regard, it’s kind of crazy. It’s surreal actually, to be honest.
Echo: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it?
Velo: My music is eclectic. It’s definitely hip-hop but it has a very dance and electro feel to it.
Echo: Who are some of your musical inspirations?
Velo: As far as mainstream goes, Drake is a huge inspiration. I’m a huge fan of [Jennifer Lopez] because she’s Latin and everyone has to have their pop diva. As far as gay artists go, Cazwell, the rapper, is actually the main reason I started doing music, I had never seen a gay rapper before.
Echo: How did you get started in music?
Velo: When I was a kid, I listened to Selena. I always wanted to be one of those Latino singers. But I never actually did anything [musical] at all until 2011, when I won Seattle Pride Idol … [Then] I bought a Mac and I started playing around with music and doing covers. After that, I started making music videos for my covers and it all kind of evolved. I started working on original music and recently started writing my own stuff.
Echo: What can you tell me about Woof?
Velo: I wrote all [five] of the songs, so I’m excited. A lot of it is going to be different for me, because I took a very different approach for some of these duets. I’m doing a lot more gay male-oriented stuff with the lyrics. Some of my solo stuff is about love and heartbreak. I went through a breakup that inspired a lot of my music.
Echo: Rumor has it that you’re working on a new full-length album. Is that true?
Velo: I have about  songs in the works … I have a duet with Pablo Hernandez coming out and a duet with Rhea Litre coming out on the album too.
Echo: What will you be singing at Tucson Pride? Will we get to hear any of you new music?
Velo: At Pride, I’m going to be singing mostly new, original stuff … I’ll bring [a cover] just in case, because it’s always fun to hear familiar stuff.
Debby Holiday to take the Pride stage
The next stop on International singer/songwriter, Debby Holiday’s tour is Tucson, Oct. 1, as part of the 39th annual Pride in the Desert celebration.
Echo caught up with Holiday to find out what attendees can expect from her Pride performance.
Echo Is this your first visit to Arizona?
Holiday: I have not been to Arizona in quite some time. I know that I’ve been to Phoenix, but I don’t think I’ve ever been to Tucson. I travel so much that I might have been, but just forgot.
Echo: You have performed at many Pride celebrations over the years – what’s your favorite thing about performing for your LGBTQ fans?
Holiday: I’m a big supporter of Pride events, I’ve done like five Prides in the past three months. I’ve been doing Prides for a long time. I just did New Orleans Pride in June, right after the Orlando shooting … As we turned onto Bourbon Street, there was a roar of people, the biggest they have ever had … I sang my dad’s song “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” between a guy wearing a turban and a girl in a bikini. That’s one of my favorite things about Pride events … [they] show that we’re so much alike. I’m a straight, half-black, half-Irish woman. I enjoy Prides very much.
Echo: What was it like growing up as the daughter of Jimmy Holiday? Were you a musical child?
Holiday: I grew up with it. My dad was a successful songwriter … I didn’t really have a choice. He threw a guitar and piano at me and, next thing I knew, I was writing music.
Echo: What can you tell me about your new album?
Holiday: I have a double album that will be out next month called Free to Be. I’ve been working on it for two and a half years. It’s half rock, half dance… I’ve got some great guests like John Waite, from The Babys and from “Missing You” fame, Ty Taylor and a bunch of amazing singers who are life-long friends … And then a bunch of amazing DJs and producers are helping me out on the dance side. So, I’m pretty excited. The release is supposed to be Sept. 20.
Echo: Any idea yet what you will be singing at Tucson Pride?
Holiday: I’ll probably mix it up. I’ll probably do a couple of dance songs and I’ll probably throw in a Bette Midler tune or something.