By Megan Wadding, Oct. 27, 2014.
Situated in California’s famed, sun-soaked Coachella Valley, Palm Springs is a mere 265 miles from Phoenix – making it a perfect weekend destination for Arizonans.
Add in the fact that the official Greater Palm Springs Pride festival and parade are set for Nov. 8 and 9 – as well as other related events, including a golf tournament, a zoo party and tons of pool parties also taking place in the days surrounding the Pride events – and you have a recipe for a rainbow road trip.
While there are countless reasons to hit the road for a celebration of all things LGBT, here are top 8 reasons to get you started:
A road trip to Palm Springs from all major Arizona cities is about a four-hour straight shot down I-10.
“Seventy-two percent of all our attendees come from outside the Coachella Valley,” said Ron deHarte, Greater Palm Springs Pride president. “Just a few hours’ drive makes for an easy trip with friends. It’s a perfect weekend to get out of town before the holidays.”
2. Location, Location, Location
The two-day festival is moving to downtown Palm Springs, which is the unofficial gayborhood. World-renowned Palm Canyon Drive boasts amazing shopping venues, restaurants, clubs and more. For the festival, the street will shut down for attendees, vendors, entertainers and artists.
“The Pride celebration [is moving] out from behind the walls at Sunrise Stadium to world famous Palm Canyon Drive,” deHarte said. “A gay mecca like Palm Springs deserves a Pride celebration that’s highly visible and in the heart of the city. Downtown Palm Springs will come alive when the giant palm trees that shade the street as you stroll during the day are washed in rainbow colors when the sun goes down.”
3. The Pride Festival is FREE. Yes, free.
Palm Springs Pride, which was first held in 1986, is set to be the first major Pride south of San Francisco that is offering free admission to its festival. Additionally, the parade and many events will be completely free to attendees. (Although, donations are always welcome.)
4. The Parade
This year’s Pride Parade is taking the new (read: gayer) route through downtown Palm Springs. The parade will feature more than 175 parade contingents, and floats, and international pop sensation Amanda Lepore was named the Celebrity Grand Marshal.
“The Parade’s new starting point will now incorporate the Uptown Design District, which is home to cafés and bars and many gay-owned vintage and modern furniture stores, fashion boutiques, art galleries and clothing shops which celebrate the city’s famed mid-century modernist roots,” deHarte said.
5. “I am Pride: Stonewall 45″
The theme of Palm Springs Pride this year is “I am Pride: Stonewall 45″ in celebration and remembrance of the Stone Riots that took place 45 years ago.
“Our kickoff event is the Stonewall Equality Concert and we will have two guest speakers as part of the program Shannon Minter and Vicky Kolakowski,” deHarte said. “Palm Springs Pride recognizes [Minter] as the leading transgender advocate for LGBT rights in the nation with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The 2014 Spirit of Stonewall Special Guest is Judge Victoria Kolakowski, the first openly transgender trial judge in the United States. She was elected to serve as a judge on the Alameda County Superior Court in November of 2010.”
6. The Drag Queens
Palm Canyon Theatre’s annual “Broadway in Drag!” pageant is returning again this year, and will be hosted by Palm Springs’ own drag diva, Bella da Ball. The pageant, which is in its fourth year, was the kick-off event for Palm Springs Pride in 2013.
“A bevy of beautiful show queens [will] vie for the crown in this lavish production around the glitz and glamour of Broadway,” deHarte said. “The contestants will be judged on evening gown, talent and swimsuit by a unique panel of judges. Broadway in Drag is a truly unique, one-of-a-kind Pride event that crowds continue to flock to year after year.”
7. The Entertainment
More than 100 performers will take tha stage(s) throughout the weekend. Jeremiah Clark, Amanda Lepore, London-based Frankmusik and Icelandic musical group, Steed Lord, all take the stage on Saturday. The Psychedelic Furs headline Sunday. National touring pop, rock and hip-hop performers, including X-Factor’s Lori Moore, Josh Zuckerman, Aiden James, Cameron E. Neilson and the desert’s own Blake Lansing are amonth the weekend’s entertainment.
8. Ladies Night
This year, the events for ladies will include not only the Official Ladies Party, but also a pre-party in the form a of a free outdoor street concert that will feature Lunden Reign, an original big beat alternative rock band that includes Lora and Nikki Lunden and feature DJ Good Boy and DJ Claudia G.
“Last year we hosted a Ladies’ Pride party and it was off the hook fun,” said deHarte. “It’s unique because it’s really just for women.”
9. The whole city is partying outside in the sunshine.
After day one of the Pride Festival, attendees are invited to head over to the Arenas Road Block Party (another free Pride event) between Indian Canyon Drive and S. Calle Encilia on Arenas Road, downtown Palm Springs.
“This street party has become a highlight of Pride weekend,” deHarte said. “Bring your friends downtown.”
The outdoor party will feature performances by Frankmusik, London based pop artist, Steed Lord; the Icelandic pop musical group; international pop sensation Amanda Lepore; indie-pop duo Purple Crush; Big Dipper, the hip-hop bear; lesbian hip hop artist, Irawniq; and pop artist Lisa D’Amato, who won the all-star cycle of America’s Next Top Model in 2011.
“We’re honored and incredibly excited to be part of this event. We will be performing our hits and our new single ‘Stutter’. We’re lucky to share the stage with great artists,” said Steed Lord, adding that they expect the show to be “electrifying.”
10. All the Other Reasons
Various other area events will coincide with Palm Springs Pride, include the Palm Springs Pride Golf Classic, Wild Pride Party at The Living Desert Zoo and numerous pool parties around town.
“There is so much going on in Palm Springs. This is a year to experience Pride again for the very first time,” said deHarte.