//Riding the wave with pride

Riding the wave with pride

Fresno’s 34th Annual Pride parade and festival will arrive in style as one of Fresno’s largest single-day events June 1.

By Lisa Talley | lisa@fresnoflyer.com

Where some events struggled to find their footing after the dormant years of COVID shutdowns, the Fresno Rainbow Pride Parade and Festival reemerged larger and more fabulous than ever. However, where the organization avoided one tragedy, it fell victim to another. Not long before the festival would see its most significant jump in attendance and historic move to Fresno City College, the organization lost its founder, community Godfather, and pillar – Jeffery Robinson. 

The fierce advocate for Queer history and safe spaces sowed the seeds of what has grown to be an iconic Central Valley celebration. While the rest of the valley may have questioned in the early 90s whether a Pride parade here would ever be more than a few decorated laundry carts showcased in a parking lot, Robinson always knew it had the potential to be larger than life. His dedication built the framework, and his passion continues to inspire community builders and advocates today to continue growing the Fresno Pride celebration to new heights.

Carrying the torch this year is Fresno Rainbow Pride Parade and Festival President Bryan Cauwels.

Every year, the board and committee of organizers develop a theme that encapsulates the spirit of the celebration in a few words. This year’s theme is “Rainbow Wave 2024: navigating through the current.” Cauwels explained that 2024 is an important election year, and as a result, the organization felt that the theme needed to reflect a crucial maxim – every vote counts, so get out there and vote!

“The current might be rough sometimes, but use your power to vote to effect the change you want to see,” Cauwels encouraged.

The theme will likely echo across thousands of hearts and minds as the organization anticipates an attendance of roughly 20,000 people pouring in from all over the valley. Last year, the festival alone boasted 13,000 attendees and will likely exceed that number this year. To help make the parade and festival more approachable for first-timers, Cauwels shared a key tip on how best to navigate the crowded areas and available resources.

“Do yourself a favor and park your vehicle at Fresno City College in the morning, before the parade begins, and then utilize our shuttle buses that will take you between the festival site and the parade route,” said Cauwels.

One of the more significant upgrades the celebration has received in recent years was the addition of shuttle buses, thanks to the generous contributions of the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission (EOC). The buses are free for attendees to use and run all day long. Additionally, the organization now has an app available for download on Eventeny that eventgoers may use to get updated information and to navigate both the festival and parade. 

While most of the world is back to business after the shutdowns, some folks don’t have the luxury of participating in big crowds. COVID is still very much an issue for the vulnerable members of our community, and there will be many who will have to sit out for yet another Pride celebration. However, the Fresno Rainbow Pride Parade and Festival will collaborate with local community access station CMAC to broadcast the parade live on television and YouTube. The live broadcast will allow everyone who cannot attend in person to share in the festivities remotely and safely. Moreover, the event will also have two live commentators – Chris Jarvis and James Hensley.

For all those who plan to arrive early to the parade, you’ll have the opportunity to witness something special as the Fresno Rainbow Pride organization will hold a “Pre-Parade.” Roughly ten minutes before 10 a.m., the organization will gather on Palm and Olive in remembrance of several beloved community members.

“This is where we will honor those we have lost, including Jeffery Robinson, Patricia Colucci, and Susan Kuhn. We want to give these people, who were so important to our organization and community, a moment all to themselves to show them the respect they deserve and let them lead the way for the 34th Annual Parade,” Cauwels shared.

Volunteers are welcome to join the efforts, but the deadline to sign up online is May 15th. Interested parties can sign up to volunteer on Eventeny. Every volunteer will not only help ensure the day runs smoothly for an event drawing more than 20,000 people overall but will also join the ranks of an entirely volunteer-led tradition. The Pride Committee and Community Link Board – everyone involved in producing the Pride celebrations every year – is comprised entirely of volunteer staff.

“We love our community and can’t wait to see everyone at the parade and festival. We pour our blood, sweat, tears, and money into this event and it is all worth it when we see 20,000+ people having the best day of their life in a non-judgment, be-your-true-self environment,” expressed Cauwels.

The Pride Parade will take place in the Tower District at 10 a.m., at Palm and Olive. The Festival begins at 11 a.m. and until 6 p.m. It will be held at Fresno City College with more than 20 food trucks, booths, and a vast array of vendors, and complete with a full day of performances. For more information about the event and how to volunteer, download the Eventeny app and search “Fresno” for the Fresno Rainbow Pride Parade and Festival.

To watch the live broadcast, visit CMAC.tv, follow CMAC on social media, or subscribe to their channel on YouTube.