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VIDEO: California's Pride season begins this weekend in Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Every year around this time, many community members start noticing signals that the California LGBT pride season is approaching, often saying “It’s that time of year already?”

Long Beach, a coastal city in the southern part of Los Angeles County that is home to nearly a half-million people, hosts its LGBT pride celebration each year on the third weekend of May, which many consider the official kickoff to the California Pride season.

Holding one of the larger pride celebrations in the country, thousands of people are expected to head to the city – including many San Diegans – to celebrate their pride this weekend at several special events, a parade, and two-day festival that will include a headline performance by Queen Latifah.

About Long Beach Pride

Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride will produce its 29th annual pride parade and festival this weekend, under the theme “Link Us Together.” Since the first celebration was held in the city in 1984, the all-volunteer organization has grown the event over the years to be one of the largest pride celebrations in the nation.

In fact, organizers say that this celebration is the third largest in the nation, and expect over 75,000 participants to attend the two-day celebration, which over the years has attracted big-name performers including Jennifer Hudson, Celia Cruz, Maya, Monica, and India.Arie.

The Festival

While many cities hold their LGBT pride celebrations in parks, on streets, or in public plazas, Long Beach’s event is unique because it takes places just steps from the beach. The two-day festival, happening May 19-20, will be held along Shoreline Drive and Seaside Way in a parking lot and park adjacent to one of the city’s wide beaches.

While the festival itself does not take place on the sand, attendees who need a break from the energy and excitement of the event don’t have to head very far. Those who do leave the celebration, however, can not re-enter due to new Alcoholic Beverage Control restrictions.

The festival includes several dance and entertainment stages, community information booths, food, beverages, and areas for children, people of faith, seniors, and others.

Queen Latifah, this year’s headline performer, will take the stage at 8:30 pm on Saturday. The concert is included with admission.

Tickets are $20 per day, with free admission for children under 12, senior citizens over 65, and veterans and active duty military. Children under 12 are not allowed on the festival grounds after 5:30 pm.

The Long Beach LGBT Pride Festival will be open from 11 am to 11 pm and both Saturday and Sunday.

A map, parking and additional information is available HERE.

The Parade

Long Beach’s colorful LGBT Pride Parade will step off at 10:30 am Sunday, May 20. More than 200 contingents are registered to participate this year, including community groups, nightclubs and bars, schools, elected officials, and others.

Early arrival to the parade is encouraged to get a good spot, and parade organizers have created incentives for those who arrive in advance of step-off.

An area called “Parade Central” will be set-up at Bixby Park, located on Cherry Avenue and Ocean Boulevard, and includes a shaded area to watch the parade from, a DJ starting at 9:30 am, give-aways, fun with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and a 10 am pep rally by Cheer L.A.

The parade takes place along Ocean Blvd. and ends in Downtown Long Beach. Parking is available on side streets and in pay lots but fills up quickly.

More information about the parade, including a route map, is available HERE.

Other events

Besides the official pride events, a number of other events are held each year surrounding the celebration.

One such event is the 5th annual Pink Party taking place tonight, May 18, at 7 pm. The outdoor party will take place in Downtown Long Beach’s East Village at 1st Street and Linden Avenue, and will benefit the Long Beach LGBT Center’s youth programs.

Participants are encouraged to dress in various shades of pink for the party, which will include pink lights and festive décor.

Famed drag performer, Jewels Long Beach, will host the event, along with the Long Beach Drag Diva contest, featuring Delta Work and Sonique from “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” DJ Barry Weaver will be spinning high-energy dance music all night.

Outdoor bars presented by Hamburger Mary’s and Bliss 525 will serve beer, wine and cocktails. Guests will have the opportunity to get their hair & nails pink’d at the Big Pink Hair and Nail stations.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door. More information HERE.

Take the San Diego Pride Fun Bus!

Each year, San Diego LGBT Pride organizes a trip to the Long Beach celebration to show its support and promote San Diego’s July event. The group will travel to Long Beach on Sunday, May 20, to participate in the parade and visit the festival.

For $25 community members will be receive a bus ride to and from Long Beach, a San Diego Pride T-shirt, snacks and drinks on the bus, and entry into the Long Beach LGBT Pride Festival following the parade. San Diego Pride will have a contingent in the Long Beach LGBT Pride Parade.

Those who wish to attend should contact Patty Zwolinski today via email at patty@sdpride.org or call 619-297-7683 ext. 101 to sign up.

More information is available HERE.

If you go

In normal traffic conditions, driving to Long Beach from central San Diego takes just under 2 hours.

Because of its proximity to the ocean, Long Beach often experiences cooler morning and evening temperatures in May, with temperatures rising midday.

Numerous hotels are located in proximity to the Long Beach LGBT Pride celebration but many sell out in advance of the event.

Long Beach Pride has an extensive set of FAQs, regulations and other information on its website.





Left photos: Scenes from the 2011 Long Beach LGBT Pride celebration. Credit: Long Beach Gay & Lesbian Pride