by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
Thousands of visitors, including many who flew down from Seattle, joined locals in celebrating Greater Palm Springs Pride last weekend (November 3-5), one of the most anticipated events on the LGBT calendar along the West Coast. The expected warm weather, reaching up into the high 70s, and the beautiful backdrop of the surrounding San Bernandino, Santa Rosa, San Jacinto and Little San Bernandino mountain ranges provided an unbeatable setting to enjoy a weekend of festivities that included live entertainment on multiple stages in downtown Palm Springs, dozens of themed parties at various sites and, of course, a two-hour parade that united all components of the LGBT community and its allies Sunday morning under the clearest of blue skies.
The parade began at the Uptown Design District, at Tachevah Drive and Palm Canyon Drive, and then traveled south to its closing point, at Amado and Palm Canyon Drive, where the entrance to the free two-day Pride Festival was conveniently located. The bulk of onlookers sat or stood along North Palm Canyon Drive, watching a long procession of participants pass by, including local politicians, LGBT rights organizations, gay club bartenders and staff members dancing on decorated truck beds, employees of large retail chains walking side-by-side with their co-workers, drag queens riding in vintage automobiles and a few high school marching bands.
Also featured in the Pride Parade were newlyweds Benjamin and Ezra McCart-Schneider, who were married in the nearby town of Idyllwild in front of fifty guests on October 21. They met in Palm Springs over three years ago, after each had relocated to the desert from the Los Angeles area. Having just returned Saturday night from their honeymoon in Maui, the couple were all smiles when they arrived an hour before the parade and settled into an ivory 1964 Buick LaSabre, furnished by the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, which handpicked the men to ride in their car.
Another pair of newlyweds, Craig Ramsay and Brandon Liberati, served as Celebrity Grand Marshalls of the parade; they appear together on the Bravo television series 'Newlyweds The First Year,' a reality show filmed in Palm Springs that chronicles the couple's first twelve months of marriage. Michael Holmes, a local performer and restauranteur, was selected as the Community Grand Marshall for his many years of entertaining audiences at venues around the city, but also for hosting charity events that helped raise money for Dine Out for Life, The LGBT Center of the Desert, Cinema Diverse: The Palm Springs LGBTQ Film Festival, the Palm Springs Animal Shelter and the American Cancer Society, to name a few.
Kristin Beck, a retired United States Navy SEAL, was chosen as the National Grand Marshall. Born Christopher Beck, she is the first female Navy SEAL, having served 20 years with Special Operation Forces (SOF) before her retirement in 2011.
Employees of Alaska Airlines, an official sponsor of Greater Palm Springs Pride, marched through the parade holding the strings of a balloon shaped and painted like one of the company's airplanes that floated high above their heads. Members of the Coachella Valley Derby Girls squad appropriately wore roller skates during the parade, avoiding having to walk the multi-block route, while students from the Cathedral High School Ballet Folklorico danced their way down North Palm Canyon Drive wearing colorful traditional Mexican dresses and mariachi suits. Meanwhile, someone sang church hymns and preached parts of a sermon as he stood on the truck belonging to the Desert Oasis Chapel.
Stonewall Gardens, PFLAG, Human Rights Campaign, United Methodist Church, Planned Parenthood, Bud Light, Walmart, California Boots and Breeches Corps (Desert Division), Palm Springs Gay Softball League, local restaurant Trio and the Palm Springs High School Marching Band, which played Coldplay's 'Viva La Vida' during their appearance at the parade, coinciding with this year's Pride theme, were some of the other participants who took part in the event that kicked off promptly at 10am and finished just after the noon hour.
But the parade was just the icing on top of an entire weekend chock full of events, which began with the Viva La Vida Street Party on Arenas Road, home to several gay bars, in downtown Palm Springs on Friday evening. A Pride Meet & Greet Party was held at the CCBC Resort in Cathedral City that same evening, as well as a performance of the Off-Broadway hit comedy The Legend of Georgia McBride at the Pearl McManus Theater. An Interfaith Welcoming Pride Shabbat Service also took place Friday evening at the Bochner Sanctuary at Temple Isaiah JCC.
On Saturday, the Palm Springs chapter of Frontrunners welcomed early morning risers to join them on a 5K and 10K Run and Walk that began at 6:30am. The Pride Festival featuring '80s new wave group Missing Persons, AC/DC tribute band GayC/DC, the first and only LGBT ensemble covering the metal icon's work, and Seattle's own Mama Tits launched its two-day roster of free entertainment on the US Bank Stage. A Viva La Vida Pool Party at the CCBC Resort ran from 10am to 10pm, a Dyke March & Rally took place in late afternoon, followed by a Women's Pride Dance at the Hard Rock Hotel and the Arenas Rd Block Party '17 attracted huge crowds throughout the night until the bars closed at 2am.
Sunday morning began with a VIP Pre-Parade Breakfast at the Desert Regional Medical Center's El Mirador Tower Building and a Champagne Brunch and Parade Party at EIGHT4NINE Restaurant & Lounge, followed by the parade that included a section devoted to a Transgender Pride and March. A 'Relaxing Closing Pool Party' at the CCBC Resort and a film screening of Lady Valor: The Kristen Beck, plus a Meet & Greet with Beck capped the weekend's itinerary.
Prior to the weekend, a George Zander Candlelight Vigil and March was held on November 1 to honor the longtime LGBT activist and former Seattle resident. George and his husband Chris Zander were attacked two years ago in downtown Palm Springs, in what was eventually ruled a hate crime; he died a month later, although it wasn't confirmed whether his death was related to the crime. Many of us here in the Emerald City knew George Zander, including myself who at one time was part of a gay men's potluck group that met monthly at each other's residences. I still remember the evening George hosted our group at his Capitol Hill residence; it was a Latin theme and he made the most incredible black beans that I only wish I had a recipe for.
An official attendance for Sunday's Pride Parade hasn't been released yet, but the event certainly attracted thousands of locals and visitors. My return flight to Seattle on Monday evening was about half full of gay men who made the two-hour trip down to the desert. If you have the opportunity to go next year, do it; Palm Springs puts on a really festive Pride, not to mention the toasty weather certainly helps.
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