A Season For Rainbows

By Laura Latzko, October 2015 Issue.

In Phoenix, the nation’s sixth largest city, pride and community are celebrated in many ways.

From each individual’s creative expression to the businesses and organizations they choose to support – pride and community can be found in many aspects of daily life.

Only a few times a year, though, are there opportunities for the entire community to converge and celebrate pride together – one of which is Rainbows Festival.

Each fall, as summer begins to fade, this street fair-style event offers the LGBT community and allies of all ages a place to gather, see a full line up of entertainment, eat and drink, shop, become acquainted with local resources, network and – most importantly – celebrate.

Photos by Fernando Hernández.

Produced annually by Phoenix Pride, this year’s festival will take place Oct. 17-18 at Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix.

According to Justin Owen, Phoenix Pride executive director, Rainbows Festival invites everyone, from near and far, out to spend quality time together, support community organizations and enjoy local entertainment.

“[Rainbows Festival] is not only a chance to reconnect and get together with friends and family,” Owen said, “but [it’s a chance for] people to come out and celebrate the LGBT community in a fun urban setting. To be in downtown Phoenix shows that we’re present, we’re here and it’s OK.”

Last year, Rainbows drew a weekend crowd of 25,000. And, according to Owen, the festival has grown in popularity in the past few years.

“Each year, we are adding more and more enhancements, just to make it more exciting for everyone,” Owen said. “We’re all about uniting the community and bringing everyone together.”

Everyone’s Invited

This year, the festival returns to Heritage Square. But, according to Dani Logan, Phoenix Pride program manager, it will have a different look with the addition of KidSpace and Phoenix Pet Pride areas.

The addition of a KidSpace at Rainbows – which will feature children’s activities such as face painting – ties into a larger goal of making Phoenix Pride events more family friendly.

“We decided to really put our focus on making families feel more welcome at Pride, [by] giving them an area where they can feel comfortable bringing their kids and spending time,” Logan said. “What we saw was people really love it, and we decided we need to bring KidSpace to Rainbows.”

While well-behaved pets have always been invited to Rainbows, this is the first year there will be specified pet area.

“Our community is so loyal to their pets, and they love their pets,” Owen said. “It’s an area we just wanted to offer because unfortunately, due to the restrictions that we have at the Pride Festival, we aren’t allowed to have animals. At the Rainbows Festival, since we are, we are embracing that.”

The Phoenix Pet Pride area will feature pet vendors, adoption agencies, an off-leash area and the Miss and Mister Phoenix Pet Pride Pageant.

“Arizona’s Greatest Street Fair”

Aside from entertainment, it’s the vendors that Rainbows Festival – also known as “Arizona’s Greatest Street Fair” – has become famous for. This year, the event will once again feature a wide variety of exhibitor booths and food vendors.

While attendees can expect to see everything from insurance companies and health and wellness resources to local groups looking for new members and clothing brands, Owen said the goal is to bring in businesses and organizations that are committed to the LGBT community.

“We pride ourselves on aligning ourselves with exhibitors and companies that aren’t just out to make a few dollars off the community, but that support it year-round and in every aspect,” Owen said.

Additionally, Logan pointed out the value of having event sponsors and partnering organizations participate as volunteers or as vendors.

“With a lot of these groups, it is getting to know them on a more personal level, rather than just through the sponsor role. Their team members are actively involved,” Logan said. “It’s not just as a marketing gimmick … It’s not just a check. It’s, ‘we believe in your organization. We believe in the mission and vision of Phoenix Pride.’”

In recent years, Owen said, the LGBT rights issues that have gained mainstream visibility – such as marriage equality – have shaped the environment at Rainbows.

“Allied businesses and attendees come out to the event because they want to

show our community that we are loved

and supported,” Owen said.

Taking Pride In Rainbows

Each year, the Phoenix Pride staff plays a big role in planning, organizing and executing Rainbows. However, Owen said, an event of this magnitude wouldn’t be possible without the 150 volunteers and 10 volunteer managers.

Throughout the two-day festival, members of local teams, groups and organizations sell alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and take on other duties as part of the Volunteer and Beverage Grant programs. As a result, a portion of beverage sales benefit the entity the volunteers are representing.

Since 2008, the programs (Pride and Rainbows festivals combined) have raised over $325,000 for local organizations.

“A lot of [the organizations] say that they wouldn’t be able to do the work that they do without the assistance of our grants,” Owen said. “We couldn’t do what we do without the community attending our festivals.”

Just like the Phoenix Pride Festival, proceeds from Rainbows help to support the Phoenix Pride LGBT Center.

“Our festivals and events have truly become fundraisers for the center,” Owen said. “For everybody who attends and shops, it is directly impacting the underserved parts of our community that count on the center for resources and services on a daily basis.”

The Phoenix Pride LGBT Center offers a wide variety of services and resources for the community. To find out more about the Phoenix Pride LGBT Center, visit phoenixpridelgbtcenter.org.

Photo by Gregg Edelman.

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