Rainbows Festival

By Laura Latzko, October 2017 Issue.

Since it was established in 2002, Rainbows Festival has served as an opportunity to Arizona’s LGBTQ community to come together for celebration, entertainment and community resources.

This year, Phoenix Pride presents the 15th annual Rainbows Festival Oct. 21 and 22 at Heritage Square Park (south of Seventh and Van Buren streets) in downtown Phoenix.

“[Rainbows Festival is] really designed for Phoenix to come out and enjoy a weekend catching up with friends and family, meeting new friends and really celebrating the fact that the heat is over, and we can go back outside,” said Justin Owen, Phoenix Pride executive director.

A Celebration of Diversity

The annual celebration of the diversity, billed as “Arizona’s Greatest Street fair,” takes place during National LGBT[Q] History Month as serves to remind and encourage people to be their unique selves all year long, according to Victor Avila, Phoenix Pride program manager.

“Our pride celebration is at the beginning of the year, in April,” he said, “so having the Rainbows Festival toward the end of the year keeps that momentum going [with] people celebrating their pride and remembering that you don’t have to wait until the next pride festival to embrace who you are.”

The street-fair style festival is a space where attendees can be themselves openly – something many still do not experience in their day-to-day lives, including environments at home, school or work.

Rainbows Festival, Owen added,  is also an opportunity for attendees to come together and express themselves wholly.

According to Owen, Phoenix Pride tries to highlight and embrace the diverse groups within the LGBTQ community at its festivals.

“The LGBT[Q] community encompasses every community,” he said. “In the LGBT[Q] community, you have every ethnicity represented. You have every gender represented. You have every socio-economic status represented … The LGBT[Q] community is one of the communities out there that doesn’t say no to anyone because everyone is a part of it.”

The Stars of the Show

Consistent with previous years, the Rainbows Festival weekend festivities will include two entertainment stages featuring combination of new and returning performers, including bands, DJs and drag queens.

This year, Avila said, Phoenix Pride worked to bring in a wider variety of performers to reflect the diversity of the community members in attendance.

“We definitely want the broader audience to feel included,” Avila said. “We [also] want to make sure we give that platform to our local entertainers, to the people who every single day continue to engage our community.”

The main stage will be hosted by Olivia Gardens and Barbra Seville, and the entertainment lineup will feature performances ranging from Aja from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” to the Miss and Mister Phoenix Pride Pageant contestants and 2017 titleholders Eva Angelica Stratton and Kristofer V. Lee.

“We want to make sure that the community sees how this pageant impacts our community, how it helps those who identify as LGBTQ continue furthering their education,” Avila said, adding that this year’s pageant contestants raised $34,700 for the Phoenix Pride Scholarship Program. (For Rainbow Festival’s schedule of events, see page 31.)

A Space For Community

When it comes to the entertainment stages, the Pet Pride area, the food vendors and the exhibitors, attendees can expect this year’s festival to have the same layout as previous years.

Throughout the Heritage Square, 150 exhibitors will bring their products, services or information about their organization or business to attendees.

According to Owen, Phoenix Pride works hard to bring businesses that are truly supportive of, and employ, individuals in LGBTQ community to festivalgoers.

“Attendees truly appreciate seeing the businesses out there supporting them because they know that they are LGBT[Q]-friendly businesses,” he said. “There are businesses that are accepting and affirming of them, whether they are looking for jobs or places to spend their personal money.”

Additionally, Owen said the event brings together various nonprofits – offering everything from health and advocacy to social meetups and housing-related services – all into one space. An important resource, he said, for people who can’t otherwise access this information easily.

“There are many members of our community that … look forward to our event every year as an opportunity to go find out what’s going on in our community; to go hear from other nonprofits; to get information, whether it be for access to health care or advocacy,” he explained.

Giving Back to Community

Another way Phoenix Pride gives back to the local community at Rainbows Festival is through its Partnership Grants Program, – both Volunteer and Beverage Grant – through which Owen said, Phoenix Pride has given away $504,000 since 2008.

Phoenix Pride gives a portion of beverage sales to LGBTQ groups whose members volunteer time to work the festival. According to Avila, the organization is continually looking to expand these programs.

Thus far, Phoenix Pride’s 2017 Partnership Grant Programs have exceeded $47,000.

“Next year, we are hoping to get other organizations involved and continue to help them in their own mission to uplift the LGBT[Q] community,” Avila said.

For more information on Phoenix Pride’s Partnership Grant Programs, visit phoenixpride.org (click scholarships & grants) or email info@phoenixpride.org.

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Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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