By Liz Massey, April 2017 Issue.
While one of the goals of the Phoenix Pride Festival is to bolster the unity of the LGBTQ community, instead of creating one giant homogeneous queer “universe” for attendees during the two-day event, it is perhaps more accurate to describe the festival landscape as a series of interconnected mini-universes, each with a unique appeal to various parts of the LGBTQ community and its allies.
According to Justin Owen, Phoenix Pride executive director, the diversity of experiences available at the festival – which will take place April 1-2 – is no accident. (For Echo‘s coverage of the 2017 Phoenix Pride Parade, click here.)
“We like to be an all-inclusive space,” he said. “LGBTQ people have been treated so differently for so long that we try to find a way to include everyone.”
With such a rich geography of excitement packed into one of the largest outdoor event venues in the city of Phoenix, it’s helpful to have a map to guide the way. Here is an overview of the major stages and event areas you can expect at this year’s festival.
The Phoenix Pride Festival will stretch over most of the available space at Steele Indian School Park, with the entrance located at Third Street and Indian School Road. The festival, Owen said, is one of the largest events hosted at the park. And attendance at the two-day event is, again, expected to be around 35,000.
Ticket prices are $15 advance/$20 at the door for a single-day pass and $30 advance/$35 at the door for a weekend pass. Children under 12 are admitted at no charge and discounted tickets are available for youth ages 13-17.
Tickets for Pride’s VIP Experience are $75 and include a weekend pass, preferred seating at the Bud Light Main Stage area, and access to an air-conditioned VIP tent with plenty of seating, a private bar and upgraded restrooms.
To operate such a complex undertaking, the Phoenix Pride relies on the assistance of more than 500 volunteers, who are directed by 18 volunteer managers and Phoenix Pride’s small, but dedicated, staff.
Additionally, Owen explained that many nonprofits supply volunteers in order to participate in Phoenix Pride’s Beverage Grant Program, in which organizations staff beverage booths in return for credits translatable to charitable donations from Phoenix Pride, or its Volunteer Grant program, in which nonprofits receive charitable credits from Phoenix Pride in lieu of festival passes for individual volunteers.
Stage by Stage
The Community Stage is the first stage that festival-goers encounter as they enter through the main gate, and stage manager Mike Fornelli said that the main focus of this area is to showcase the best of Phoenix’s local talent.
“We have invited local show directors from Phoenix and Tucson to put together entertainment segments featuring entertainers from their bar, organization, or troupe,” Fornelli said.
Drag entertainers will command much of the time on the community stage, officially named the Tish Tanner Community Stage after one of the Valley’s favorite drag queens of the 1980s and 1990s. The first day of the festival there will be performances by Afeelya Bunz & Friends, Divas Tucson and a sampling of Latin diva performers. The following day, the incoming Phoenix Pride 2017 royalty and the Arizona Drag Stars will perform.
Fornelli, who has managed the community stage for the past four years, said that visitors have appreciated seeing the diversity of local talent, as well as the fact that the venue offers fully shaded table and ground seating, a small dance floor and provides sign language interpretation.
“Everyone always has a great time there, and it is so fun to see how happy everyone is,” Fornelli said. “I love seeing the audience interacting with the performers, the kids’ awestruck faces when they tip a performer, and the amazing sense of community that the stage exudes.”
The Bistro Stage, managed by Dawn Bowman, is the place to go for celebrating the arts. Intended to provide an intimate, coffeehouse atmosphere, the stage will again be located against the scenic backdrop of the park’s 2.5-acre lake.
The stage will feature “indie” style musical artists and small ensembles from a variety of genres, including alternative rock, folk, jazz, blues and R&B. The touring pop/rock band Edison will play April 1, alongside such acts as 76th Street, indie guitarist Sarah Chapman and the jazz/R&B band House of Stairs. The following day, local singer-songwriter Jane Murdock will lead off the entertainment, followed by acts such as guitarist/pianist Adam Smith, Daniel Diaz and the Johanna Chase Duo.
Besides the music on tap at the Bistro Stage, the area will also host several visual arts displays. Bowman said festival goers can contribute to the “Recycle Pride,” a sculpture/light display, which will be built next to the stage throughout the weekend.
“Large wire sculptures will be on the grass near the lake, and the community will be using plastic water bottles recycled from the festival itself to build the outdoor sculptures,” Bowman explained. “We will light them up at night, and they will fill in as the festival proceeds all weekend. It should be a great visual display at the end!”
The stage will also be the home of the Arts Expo, which allows artists to showcase their work in small booths underneath the tent. Visitors will be able to browse the photographs, jewelry, handcrafted soaps, fine-art paintings for sale, or experience body art or a henna tattoo. The artists will contribute items to a live art raffle that will benefit the Phoenix Pride Scholarship Program.
Bowman compared the atmosphere at the Bistro Stage to that of Phoenix’s best arts venues and encouraged festival-goers to stop by.
“The Bistro/Arts Expo is like finding that cool hang-out or local popular club … you can hang out and listen to great musicians, relax and buy some great art,” she said.
For some members of the LGBTQ community, the freedom to dance as they please and with whom they please is a expression of pride and acceptance. According to Edward Castro, assistant entertainment manager in charge of the Dance Pavilion, this venue provides 10,000 square feet in which to boogie the day and night away, with music provided by DJs from a variety of genres. Dancers can groove to the beats provided by DJ Aris, DJ Vince Urban, DJ Kinkyloops, and DJ Image April 1, and Weston Parish, DJ Lady Staliet, Musa Mind and Astony April 2.
“The purpose of the Dance Pavilion is to provide our guests with a club/party style atmosphere,” Castro explained. “Every DJ we will feature has their own style, and presents something different in every set. You will hear a variety of music from Top 40, dance hall, Latin, country and hip-hop all in the mix.”
If you’re at the festival and feel your sense of pride flagging, Castro asserted that the Dance Pavilion was a great place to stop for an energetic boost.
“The Dance Pavilion is the life of the party at the Phoenix Pride Festival,” he said. “If I weren’t backstage volunteering, I’d be at the Dance Pavilion all day long.”
Bud Light Main Stage
If your taste runs to big name musical artists and national headlining acts, this is your hangout. While the evening slots are reserved for top national acts, Natalie Cianciola, Phoenix Pride entertainment director, said there will be great entertainers on stage all day long each day of the festival. Barbra Seville, an Echo Readers’ Choice Award finalist for 2017, will co-emcee the stage both days.
DJ Jay Pea will open the Main Stage April 1, and will be followed by appearances by Phoenix Pride Royalty, the Arizona Drag Stars, Virr., Latin songstress Ninel Conde and Los Chicos Del 512, a Selena tribute band and and headliner Belinda Carlisle. The following day, DJ Shorty feat. Leztourage will kick things off for Phoenix Phollies, Superstars of House feat. Barbara Tucker, KORR-A, Brian Justin Crum from “America’s Got Talent” season 11 and headliner Aaron Carter.
Beyond the excitement of the musical performances, Cianciola said one the best parts of her job over the years has been overseeing artist meet and greets with festival-goers.
“I’ve been the fan waiting in line for hours to meet my favorite artist,” she said. “I love seeing how excited attendees are, knowing they are seconds away from meeting their favorite artist. It’s always exciting to being able to pass out last minute meet-and-greet wristbands from the Main Stage – truly making someone’s day and watching them ‘fangirl out’ as they snap a photo backstage with the headliner.”
The Rest of the Fest
While the four stages at the festival attract numerous fans, there are several other major attractions at the event that are worth visiting.
According to Owen, the festival’s Erotic World, an area strictly for those 18 and up and filled with all manner of adult delights, continues to grow every year. Visitors, who will need to present ID to enter the area, can purchase adult merchandise from a bevvy of specialized vendors, watch demonstrations by BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) practitioners and erotic dancers – all in a private, air-conditioned tented space.
“People can come to Erotic World to learn about the dark and mysterious parts of our community that are embraced and loved, but not often showcased,” Owen said.
This children’s play area, located near the festival entrance and the Community Stage, has been created especially for families with children ages 4 to 12 years old. Kids and family members are invited to participate in crafts, creative activities and games from noon to 5 p.m. on both days of the festival. Each child must be accompanied by a parent or guardian at all times.
Owen said he was pleased with the development of KidsSpace.
“We’ve seen so many families blossom in our community, and a lot of them want to come to Pride,” he said. “The KidSpace allows them to bring their younger kids to Pride and enjoy it.”
If you’re the type to never pass up a “shop-ortunity,” then you’ll want to make a pilgrimage to some of the 300 corporations, local businesses, and organizations that will have booths in the vendor areas at the festival.
According to Victor Avila, Phoenix Pride program manager and staff liaison for the vendors, this year’s vendor roster will include well-known local and national names.
The open market atmosphere in the vendor area, Avila said, is a win-win-win for Pride, festival goers and the vendors themselves.
“Exhibitors play a major role in ensuring the festival’s success,” he said. “Our attendees enjoy strolling through the marketplace getting to know the different businesses and services that support our community; in turn, our exhibitors are building relationships within our community. Plus, who doesn’t like swag!”
It’s all about commUNITY
In the end, Owen said, one of the biggest benefits of attending the festival is the opportunity to connect with the entire LGBTQ and allied community all in one place, and to help a lot of organizations.
“Our grants provide funds for many nonprofits, all year round, and our scholarships help people go to school,” he said. “The festival is one big community support event.”
|1-2 p.m.||Pride Contestants|
|2-3 p.m.||Afeelya Bunz & Friends|
|3-5 p.m.||Arizona Entertainer of the Year
Royalty Hour and Femtastic
|5-6 p.m.||Diva’s Tucson Hour|
|6-7 p.m.||Latina Diva Hour|
|1-2 p.m.||Stars Choice|
|2-3 p.m.||Elements feat. Illusions|
|3-4 p.m.||Arizona Drag Stars|
|4-5 p.m.||Ruby Reynolds Latin Hour|
|5-6 p.m.||H.O.K (Haus of K.U.N.T.)|
|Noon-12:45 p.m.||House of Stairs|
|1-1:45 p.m.||Sarah Chapman|
|2-2:45 p.m.||Sam Tolson|
|3-3:45 p.m.||The New Treasurefruit|
|4-4:45 p.m.||Karen O’ Brien Band|
|5-5:45 p.m.||76th Street|
|7-7:45 p.m.||Jacob Acosta Band|
|Noon-12:45 p.m.||Jane Murdock|
|1-1:45 p.m.||Adam Smith|
|2-2:45 p.m.||Pearl Ridge|
|3-3:45 p.m.||Bridget Lyons|
|4-4:45 p.m.||Daniel Diaz|
|5-5:45 p.m.||Johana Chase Duo|
|Noon-1:25 p.m.||DJ Aris|
|1:30-3:55 p.m.||DJ Vince Urban|
|4-6:25 p.m.||DJ Kinky Loops|
|6:30-9 p.m.||DJ Image|
|Noon-1:25 p.m.||Weston Parish|
|1:30-3:55 p.m.||DJ Lady Staliet|
|4-6:25 p.m.||Musa Mind|
|Bud Light Main Stage|
|11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.||DJ Jay Pea|
|2:30-2:50 p.m.||Phoenix Pride Royalty|
|3-4 p.m.||Arizona Drag Stars|
|5-5:45 p.m.||Ninel Conde|
|6-7:30 p.m.||Los Chicos Del 512|
|8-8:45 p.m.||Belinda Carlisle|
|11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.||DJ Shorty feat. Leztourage|
|3:30-5 p.m.||Phoenix Phollies|
|4:45-6 p.m.||Superstars of House feat.
|7:15-8 p.m.||Brian Justin Crum|
|8:15-9 p.m.||Aaron Carter|
2017 Phoenix Pride Festival
Noon-9 p.m. April 1-2
Steele Indian School Park
300 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix