//Qu33r All Year!

Qu33r All Year!

Fresno Rainbow Pride is turning 33 and everyone’s invited to the party!

By Dave Fountinelle | dave@fresnoflyer.com

For the past thirty-two years, Fresno Rainbow Pride has been throwing the biggest and the best celebration of inclusion and acceptance in the Central Valley. And each year, the crowds have grown more prominent, the party wilder, and the message louder. On Saturday, June 3rd, organizers plan to celebrate Fresno Rainbow Pride’s 33rd birthday by once again taking things to a whole new level.

“Last year we set some amazing attendance records, we had nearly 16,000 people at the parade and close to 11,000 people at the festival,” says Bryan Cauwels, President of Fresno Rainbow Pride. “This year, we’re expecting our largest turnout yet!”

“Our theme this year is “Qu33r All year,” Cauwels beams. “The logo was actually created by a member of our Youth group.” 

Cauwels explains, “The “33” in the title is because this is the 33rd annual parade and festival. We chose this theme because we think it’s important to remember that, while we celebrate Pride in June, we are here and in our community year round.” 

Cauwels promises an impressive parade lineup and an incredible entertainment lineup on the main stage at this year’s festival. He is even teasing a few surprises that have not been announced yet for the entertainment stage.

With more vendors, activities, and attractions on hand than ever before, there’s sure to be no shortage of things to do, especially for the foodies out there.

“Probably the best news so far this year is that we have quite a few more food booths signed up,” Cauwels said. “We [will] have a big variety of food options, including vegetarian and vegan options.”

The 2023 Pride celebration is Cauwels’ first year as President of Fresno Rainbow Pride. As if that wasn’t enough pressure, he’s also stepping into impossibly big shoes. Though perhaps that’s the reason Cauwels is filled with excitement and anticipation rather than anxiety.

Fresno Rainbow Pride’s beloved founder and president, Jeffrey Robinson, tragically passed away shortly before last year’s celebration. His passing left a void that will almost certainly never be filled, not just within the organization but the entire LGBTQ+ community in Fresno. So rather than try to fill those shoes, Cauwels and everyone else at Fresno Rainbow Pride have drawn inspiration from Jeffrey’s leadership and carried on in their own way, just as he would have wanted them to. 

Says Cauwels, “I wanted to make sure the Fresno Rainbow Pride celebration lived on and we can continue to have something for our community here in the Central Valley to look forward to and enjoy every year.”

In anticipation of their biggest shindig yet, Fresno Rainbow Pride has once again partnered with Fresno Economics Opportunities Commission (EOC) to provide shuttle service between parking for the festival at Fresno City College and the parade route in the Tower District. Attendees are encouraged to take advantage of the free parking at Fresno City College and use the shuttles to quickly and easily get around.

One very popular attraction that will be returning to the Fresno Rainbow Pride celebration is the SPCA adoption trailer. Dozens of adorable puppies and kittens will be waiting to find their forever homes. But get there early if you’re looking to bring home a new addition to the family; they always adopt out all of their pets every year.

Of course, the main attraction for Fresno Rainbow Pride is the parade. This year, Fresno Rainbow Pride is honoring three Lifetime Grand Marshalls, three individual Grand Marshalls, a Community Group Grand Marshall, and a Local Organization Grand Marshall. The Lifetime Grand Marshalls were chosen due to the tremendous impact they have had on the Fresno Rainbow Pride organization and their contributions to the LGBTQ+ community during their lives. This year’s Lifetime Grand Marshalls are Jeffery Robinson, Patty Colucci, and Susan Kuhn. 

The first Individual Grand Marshall selected is California Assembly Person Esmerelda Soria. While serving on the Fresno City Council, she was a significant advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and helped Fresno Rainbow Pride with the parade and festival permitting process. In addition, Soria, along with Jeffery Robinson, was instrumental in bringing the Pride Flag raising to Fresno City Hall.

The second Grand Marshall selection is Kaede Coronado-Acuna. A fierce leader and advocate for young people in the Central Valley and former Community Link Youth Group member, Coronado-Acuna was heavily involved in their high school GSA, going on to become a youth trainer for GSA Networks Youth Council. They now serve on the Central Valley GSA networks staff.

The third Grand Marshall pick is Fresno City Councilmember Annalisa Perea. She represents Fresno’s Tower District on the City Council and has been an essential advocate for keeping Tower a safe space for all. Perea was voted into office in the last election and was elected Council Vice President by her colleagues in January. 

The Community Group Grand Marshall is The Fools Collaborative. The Fools Collaborative is a collective of artists who produce events with the express purpose of bringing awareness to and raising funds for an assortment of community, charitable, environmental, and social justice-oriented causes. They have raised thousands of dollars for multiple local organizations throughout their six years in operation, including Fresno Rainbow Pride. They were also among the lead organizers of the Save the Tower movement.

The Local Organization Grand Marshall this year is Socorro Santillan and Planned Parenthood. Through the years, Planned Parenthood has been one of the biggest supporters of Fresno Rainbow Pride and the LGBTQ+ community, offering several services through their various programs.

As our society progresses steadily towards equality for all people, youth activism has become a significant driving force in promoting the values of inclusion. Fresno Rainbow Pride is a Community Link project whose youth group – in addition to designing this year’s logo – has been working closely with them to provide safe spaces for young people to find acceptance and support. To that end, Fresno Rainbow Pride has successfully used social media apps like Instagram to promote youth-centric events and stay connected.

“We have to support our youth, they are the future and they need to know that it is safe to be who they are,” Cauwels says. 

Unfortunately, while public support of the LGBTQ+ community continues to grow, there has also been a rise in anti-LGBTQ+ hate in recent years. For example, members of the Central Valley Proud Boys are accused of vandalizing Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in early April and have been a disruptive presence at several other LGBTQ+ events and drag shows in Fresno. In response to this, Fresno Rainbow Pride will be taking additional steps to ensure all attendees’ safety, including hiring more security and implementing a new clear bag policy. Information about these changes can be found on the Fresno Rainbow Pride website.

Cauwels isn’t daunted by any of the intolerant rhetoric coming from hate groups, pandering politicians, or sanctimonious zealots. “With so much division in the country right now, we want people in our community to know that we offer a safe space for everyone to freely express themselves and be who they are. It is so important to show people that Fresno is a diverse and accepting community. Our event is a celebration for our entire community and everyone is welcome!”

“So come out, be yourself, have some great food, and help us show the world what Fresno Pride is all about!”

For more information about this year’s Fresno Rainbow Pride parade and festival, visit www.fresnorainbowpride.com or follow fresno_rainbow_pride on Instagram. Fresno Rainbow Pride is also looking for volunteers of all ages and abilities to lend a hand. Anyone interested can sign up at www.fresnorainbowpride.com/volunteer.