By Megan Wadding, Oct. 9, 2014.
For 37 years, Tucson’s Pride in the Desert has served as a celebration of diversity, community and family. Year after year the festival continues to grow — both the event itself as well as attendance and participation — and 2014 is no exception.
According to April Moss, Tucson Pride president, the festival continues to add more exhibitors and vendors each year. And, as a result, she hopes to see even more attendees than previous years.
“We have people from Phoenix coming down, people from Bisbee coming up, and also people from San Diego, San Bernardino and Las Vegas,” Moss said.
A Family Affair
Always in search of ways to improve upon the previous year, Moss explained a top priority this year is to make the event more family-friendly, with a big focus on improving the children’s activity area.
“We had a pretty good deal with our kids area last year, but we’re working on making that better,” said Moss. “Last year we had a rock-climbing wall, but there was a height requirement, [so] the kids kind of got left out [of that].”
As more and more attendees are bringing their families to Pride these days, Moss said Pride is taking its cue and aiming to becoming more of a family event.
“Tucson Pride is working on [what we hope] to be a very special ‘Family Area’, one that goes back to Tucson Pride’s first years,” said Moss. “This year we’re trying to make sure it’s [an area where] both the kids and the adults can enjoy the activities.”
The Festival Stage
Comedienne Sandra Valls and Arizona’s own Tempest DuJour will co-emcee the event from the festival stage. Meanwhile DJ Amy Alderman and DJ JST will be behind the turntables.
The entertainment will also include headliners Jason Walker, a soul/pop/house singer based in New York City and Shadina, a hip-hop/R&B singer originally from Baltimore.
“We’ve got some good entertainment lined up,” Moss said. “[Walker] has a big hit with Taylor Dayne’s ‘Tell It to My Heart’. His stage presence will bring excitement and an upbeat flair.”
Walker, who’s making his first appearance in Arizona, said he’s “super excited” about playing at the festival.
“I’m going to do a bunch of the songs that I’ve made over the past ten years,” he said. “The cover of ‘Tell It to My Heart’ will definitely be the mix.”
Walker maintains that his musical style spans many genres, so there will be something for everyone when he takes the stage.
“I love house music, I love club music. I don’t like to get tied down to one genre,” he said. “[Singing] has always been something that I’ve wanted to do; it’s been the only thing.”
Walker said his vocal inspirations include Patti LaBelle, Chaka Chan, Whitney Houston, Prince and Madonna, but credits Kristine W with teaching him how to sing.
“The music business has changed so much … I feel like the world as a whole is getting better, but there are still some hurdles that we face. There’s still a certain stigma. But at the same time, I think that barriers are breaking down little by little.
Walker has spent the past three years recording his forthcoming album, which he describes as “all live instrumentation, it’s all original, and it’s all old-school sounding.”
Pride on Parade
For 2014, Tucson Pride’s annual Pride on Parade and block party fall on National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11, one week prior to the Pride Festival.
This year’s parade, the theme of which is Stonewall 25 — Reflections of Pride, will return to Fourth Avenue.
According to April Moss, Tucson Pride president, the new parade route — combined with the block party at SkyBar — is expected to increase attendance.
Additionally, the parade will feature numerous local groups and organizations as well as a few high school bands.
The sole Grand Marshal of the 2014 parade is Daniel Hernandez, the young man who many credit with saving the life of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords following a 2011 shooting that took place in Tucson.
“[Hernandez] gives back to the community and is very well-known throughout the country now,” Moss said. “He’s right in our backyard and he needs to be recognized.”
Echo caught up with Hernandez ahead of the parade to chat about his hometown pride and his other recent endeavors.
Echo: Are you looking forward being the Grand Marshal at Tucson Pride?
Hernandez: I’m excited because this is the first time I’ve been invited to be the Grand Marshal of an Arizona Pride Parade. I’ve done really big parades like in San Diego and Seattle, but [not] in my hometown. So, I’m glad to finally be able to do Tucson.
Echo: What are you working on these days?
Hernandez: I’m the president of the Sunnyside School Board and I’m running for reelection in November. Also, after the shooting in Tucson and the shooting in Newtown, I’ve also been working on trying to reduce gun violence as a part of several different organizations. I’m just staying busy working on public policy and speaking engagements.
Echo: What inspired you to write your book, They Call Me a Hero: A Memoir of My Youth?
Hernandez: For me it was really important that we first let Giffords and her husband write their book. As an elected official representing a school district, I thought it was important that we do a book for young adults. Hopefully they’ll be able to see a little bit of themselves in the book. There aren’t too many other Latino authors and there aren’t too many LGBTQ authors and there certainly aren’t many people that are both. Debbie Wasserman Schultz wrote the forward, Nancy Pelosi wrote a blurb on the back, and Piers Morgan, Shepard Smith and Ariana Huffington also contributed.
Echo: How often do you see Gabrielle Giffords? How is she?
Hernandez: We don’t see each other as often as we’d like. She and her husband have started Americans for Responsible Solutions, so they’re on the road quite a bit, raising money for that organization and working to try to reduce gun violence. But when I do see her it’s always wonderful catching up. I saw her a few months ago at a dinner. The last thing we talked about was her starting to play the French horn again.
Pride in the Desert
Noon-9 p.m. Oct. 18,
Kino Sports Complex
2500 E. Ajo Way, Tucson
Pride on Parade
6 p.m. Oct. 11
Along Fourth Avenue, Tucson