United We Stand, Equality for All

Phoenix Pride’s annual festival pairs history and unity for an inclusive celebration

Phoenix Pride 2017. Photos by nightfuse.com.

By Megan Wadding, April 2018 Issue.

Under the theme “United We Stand, Equality for All” the 2018 Phoenix Pride Festival is set to welcome 37,000 attendees to Steele Indian School Park April 7 and 8.

According to festival organizers, the theme speaks to the importance of the community being united under the same ultimate goal.

“It simply reminds us that we are all equal and we need to stand together, no matter who we are, to eliminate the hate and discrimination in the world,” said Mike Fornelli, Phoenix Pride’s interim executive director. “We are trying to tell a story and relay a message with our theme this year that will resonate throughout the entire event.”

The festival logo, a rainbow fist pumping into the air, has an intentionally political feel to it.

“Of course, the raised clenched fist has been used as a symbol of solidarity and support, but also defiance, strength and resistance,” Fornelli said. “The rainbow colors, of course, represent the LGBTQ community.”

Together, the theme and the logo serve as a welcome mat for all community members, from all walks of life, and the allies who support them.

“We [wanted to] make sure we were maximizing our efforts so that our entire community is represented at our festival,” said Victor Avila, Phoenix Pride’s program manager. “Our plan is to take us back to our roots and remind the public where we came from, how it all started and that our fight is far from over.”

Growing From Grassroots

As the 38th anniversary of Pride celebrations in the Valley of the sun, this year’s festival promises to be bigger and better than ever before, with upgrades, expansions and a few surprises.

For starters, festival organizers estimate that this year’s celebration will include more than 150 entertainment performances and more than 300 exhibitors.

According to Avila, the Phoenix Pride staff worked especially diligently this year to bring together their best ideas for the events.

“[We’re] ready to have the most amazing year that Pride has ever seen,” Avila said, adding that the Phoenix Pride staff is “pumped” for the events this year.

While attendees can expect the layout of this year’s festival to besimilar to previous years, Fornelli promised there will be some new additions, including expansions of some of the more popular areas to accommodate the growth of the event.

Four more bars have been added to the festival, including a lakeside wine bar and a double-decker wrap-around Budweiser Macrobar with rooftop DJs, which will be located at the North bowl, west of Erotic World.

As a festival first, point-of-sale systems will be implemented, thus eliminating the need for drink tickets and the booths that previously sold them.

“This means people can pay cash or use their credit cards at the bars … making it an easier process,” Fornelli said.

The Right Side of History

New to the Main Stage this year is the LGBTQ History Project’s historic slideshow, a multimedia display highlighting national and local LGBTQ history.

“It will remind us that, while we’ve been on the right track toward achieving our goals, it can easily change. And so, we must remember how it all started and stand united in this new world we face,” Avila explained. “In order to achieve equality for all, we must remain united as a community, regardless of how you identify. In the end, we are all trying to achieve the same goal: to be treated equally … If we start to divide within our own community, our fight will be much harder and the road much longer. We’re stronger together.”

The festival will, once again, feature the LGBT History Project booth to serve as an educational tool about the community’s past. According to Avila, the VIP tent will also house a piece of history.

Including the Main Stage, attendees will find the same five stages they’re familiar with, each with a talent-packed itinerary (for details, see page 48).

The Main Stage

The Main Stage, presented by Bud Light, is home to a combination of local artists and bands, drag performances and headlining acts.

On April 8, the Main Stage will be hosted by AfeelyaBunz and Barbra Seville and will feature performances by Phoenix Pride Royalty, Haus of K, Vizin, R&B vocalist Thelma Houston, Los 5, Barbra Seville’s Phoenix Phollies and pop diva Bebe Rexha.

The following day, Olivia Gardens and Barbra Seville will welcome Phoenix Pride Royalty, Spotlight, Country Idol winners, Stash, local Selena cover band Los Chicos Del 512, “American Idol” season 7 finalist David Hernandez, internationally renowned singer-songwriter Kristine W and ’80s electro-pop band Berlin featuring Terri Nunn.

The Tish Tanner Community Stage

Each year, show directors from Phoenix and Tucson are invited to put together show segments featuring entertainers from bars, organizations or troupes for performances on the Tish Tanner Community Stage.

“The purpose of the Tish Tanner Community stage is to highlight our local entertainers,” Avila said. “Every year, we highlight the incredible talents that entertain our community day after day.”

This year the Community Stage, managed by Johnny Stevens, will also feature a sports panel discussion, with members of local sports organizations, from 1 to 1:30p.m. on April 8.

“The panel will consist of former/current athletes that have come out and prominent figures in a variety of sports leagues,” Avila said. “This is being spearheaded by our newest sponsor, the Arizona Diamondbacks.”

Bistro Stage

The Bistro Stage, managed by Dawn Bowman, offers a more artsy, laid-back atmosphere thatwill showcase jazz and acoustic musicians and bands throughout both days of the festival. Located under a tent, the Bistro Stage will also offer a shaded seating area, a coffee house and is home to the festival’s art exhibitors.

Now in its eighth year, the festival’s Arts Expo will feature a collection of artist booths, from photography and custom-made jewelry to fine art and wood designs on display and available for purchase. Additional booths, such as henna and body painting, will bring live and interactive elements to the Arts Expo.

In recent years, the addition of the Chalk Walk in the arts expo has invited attendees to participate in the arts experience by leaving their mark on the community chalk painting project. There will also be a painting competition, sponsored by AZ Art Supply and judged by a panel of experienced local artists.

Dance Pavilion

Day or night, the festival’s Dance Pavilion offers a high-energy atmosphere where local DJs showcase their sets dance, pop and top 40 sets all weekend long. This 10,000-square-foot space, managed by Atlas Harbaugh, includes tent-covered dancefloor and various fixtures that light up as the sun sets each evening.

Each year, festival organizers enhance the Dance Pavilion in various ways. And, according to Avila, this year is no exception – but attendees will have to wait to see in person.

“Exciting things are happening at the dance pavilion,” he teased.

KidSpace Stage

As LGBTQ families continue to grow, so does the festival’s commitment to entertainment for all ages. Each year, the KidSpace Stage and surrounding area is created specificallywith families in mind. Here, children ages 4 to 12 years old, are invited to participate in such pride festivities as a bounce house, face-painting, arts and crafts, performances and other entertainment.

Erotic World

Now in its eighth year, the festival’s Erotic World, managed by Jim Ward, is also getting bigger and better. According to Fornelli, the area’s footprint has been expanded to allow more space for both guests and vendors.

For attendees ages 18 and older, Erotic World is a free all-adult venue that brings together adult retail, entertainment, fetish demonstrations, Q&A panels, exotic dancers, various other performance and more.

The VIP Experience

Attendees (ages 18 and older) who opt for the VIP Experience will also notice some enhancements made to the designated section this year.

According to Fornelli, Volkswagon North Scottsdale was brought in as the title sponsor for the VIP Experience, and Vermillion Events was hired to create an ambiance that’s consistent with this year’s theme.

In addition to the air-conditioned luxury lounge with its own full private bar, fronts rows facing the Main Stage, cell phone charging stations, executive restrooms, cocktail table service, upgrades include a VIP fast-pass line, a photo-booth, complimentary massages and pop-up entertainment exclusive to the VIP Experience.

Two-day passes to the Phoenix Pride VIP Experience are available in advance for $77.56 HERE.


Phoenix Pride Festival
Noon-9 p.m. April 7-8
Steele Indian School Park
300 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix
phoenixpride.org/events/pride-festival