New Beginnings in Tucson

By Megan Wadding, October 2018 Issue.

Pride in the Desert, Tucson’s annual celebration that includes the Pride on Parade and Pride in the Park, will take place Sept. 29.

The theme for this year’s festivities is “New Beginnings,” which is fitting because Tucson Pride has seen a lot of changes in recent years, with concern to both the board and the new direction for the organization.

“It is no secret, Tucson Pride as an organization has undergone significant changes,” said Sam Cloud, Tucson Pride board’s president. “A year ago, the board was considering dissolution because of a financial crisis resulting from an incident of alleged theft and fraud.”

Cloud said the organization “spent months” figuring out how to regroup and restructure.

“New Beginnings reflects the refocus of the organization to move forward in a positive direction, with a new foundation, stronger and more resolute than ever before,” Cloud said. “Our strategic plan goals include financial structure and stability, positive engagement with the community, building and nurturing relationships with similar organizations and an overall mission to strengthen our community.”

But first, we celebrate.

This year, Tucson's Pride on Parade will take place at 11 a.m. Sept. 29, and precede Pride in the Park. Photo by Stephanie Anne Donoghue.

Pride on Parade

The celebration kicks off with Pride on Parade, which has historically been held on the Friday evening before the Festival. This year, due to community feedback, it will take place at 11 a.m. Sept. 29, and precede the festival (also Saturday).

“Many folks from our community voiced concern over holding the parade in the dark, as if we were hiding in the shadows. With the addition of the streetcar downtown, public safety during the parade has also become a primary concern, as we were only able to shut down one direction of traffic,” Cloud explained. “This year we are thrilled to bring the parade back to into the daylight and as a celebration leading directly into the festival.”

According to Cloud, event organizers are expecting more than 50 parade contingents for the procession along the new route: south down Country Club Road from Broadway Boulevard and continuing on to Reid Park.

Tucson's Pride in the Park festival will take place from Noon 10 p.m. Sept. 29 at Reid Park. Photo by Bill Gemmill.

Pride in the Park

This year’s festival, which will take place from noon to 10 p.m. at Reid Park, will include several new additions, a line-up of entertainment, as many as 100 vendors, exhibitors and sponsors and approximately 4,000 attendees, according to Cloud.

From nonprofit organizations serving the LGBTQ community and staged entertainment all day to a variety of food vendors and various activities at the vendor booths, Cloud said festival attendees can expect “a ton of community resources in one place.”

“Vendors and exhibitors go beyond every year, by bringing interactive activities for attendees,” Cloud said. “Entertainers will be mingling with the crowd, [and] we have tons of community members adding their own flavor to the celebration, including volunteers greeting every attendee with a smile and an offer of a hug to welcome them and set the tone.”

As for the entertainment, this year’s headliners include singer/songwriter Johnathan Celestin, singer, dancer and femme phenomenon Taylor Rene and God-Des, one of the first openly gay rappers (first seen in the hip hop/soul duo, God-Des and She).

A veteran Pride in the Park performer, God-Des said she always loves coming to Tucson for the festival.

“I’m so excited to be coming back to play Pride,” God-Des said. “Tucson is one of my favorite cities to visit and perform. [The] community is so supportive, and the shows are always lit!”

Tucson's Pride in the Park will feature live entertainment by singer, dancer and femme phenomenon Taylor Rene; God-Des, one of the first openly gay rappers; and singer/songwriter Johnathan Celestin.

Spotlighting Community

Community feedback is often the driving force of Tucson Pride’s lineup, according to Cloud. And, as a result of such feedback, this year’s festival will have a renewed emphasis on local entertainment.

“Our community is diverse in strengths and talents and we plan to feature more local entertainers from within our community than ever before,” Cloud said.

With the return of the Miss and Mr. Tucson Pride Pageant last year, Southern Arizona performers have another outlet for not only entertaining, but also giving back to their community.

Miss and Mr. Tucson Pride 2018 Lady Ashley and Justin Deeper, who were crowned Aug. 26 at La Quinta Inn & Suites Tucson - Reid Park, will formally kick off their reign as part of the Tucson Pride festivities. (Check out the next issue of Echo for more information of Tucson’s 2018 titleholders.)

The theme for this year’s event is “New Beginnings,” an appropriate theme as Tucson Pride looks to the future. This year's festival and parade logos were designed and submitted by local artist Joanne Contreras.

A Reason To Celebrate

Through the new beginnings, Tucson Pride’s mission remains to unify, celebrate and strengthen the LGBTQA+ Community of southern Arizona through advocacy, education, leadership and support.

“We believe nothing is ever completely lost. One of the most beautiful things about our community is we are resilient. We do not give up,” Cloud said. “We come back to the drawing board, time and time again, and never lose sight of this one universal truth; with open dialogue and pooling our strengths together, we can accomplish even what others perceived impossible.”

Additionally, Cloud added that the message Tucson Pride wants to send to the community is one of inclusiveness and integrity.

“We welcome everyone, LGBTQI+ and allies, to join us in celebrating our diversity,” Cloud concluded. “We want everyone to feel free to be themselves and to feel welcomed, accepted, and loved.”

For more information on the 2018 Tucson Pride festivities, visit

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