After rain clears away, 36th annual parade showers Long Beach in LGBTQ Pride
By Kat Schuster, contributing writer
For Summer Smith, the Annual Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade in Long Beach is more than an opportunity to wear a rainbow cape — it’s a day to celebrate community.
“This opens people’s eyes to see that we’re just regular people,” said Smith, who has been coming to the parade for the last 10 years.
A possible chance of rain didn’t stop thousands of glitter-covered, flag wielding Southern California residents from showing up to parade down Ocean Boulevard on Sunday.
Painting the diverse coastal city in rainbows for the 36th year, the glitzy and music-drenched promenade was again the defining event in an activity-packed weekend celebrating the community’s LGBTQ community and history.
Related: Club Ripples, Long Beach’s oldest gay club, celebrates last Pride weekend with plans to close this summer
“The Barbra Streisand song ‘Don’t Rain on my Parade’ really rings true today,” said Jewels Long Beach, the parade’s host queen in drag since 2013. “The whole city is here.”
Jewels — director of entertainment, marketing and media at Hamburger Mary’s — celebrated her 21st year here and paused to marvel for a moment at how it grows each year.
“We have an amazing community here,” she said. “There are so many churches and organizations that have come out to show love and support, some that you wouldn’t even think of.”
The parade has not only grown in size but has seen increasing involvement from city officials and other local politicians in recent years.
“It’s definitely more political than it used to be,” said Anthony Ayala. “But I think it’s important to be political here. Our rights are affected by people in power.”
Riding or marching among the 141 entries were such elected officials as:
- Mayor Robert Garcia;
- Vice Mayor Dee Andrews;
- Assemblymen Patrick O’Donnell and Mike Gipson;
- Councilmembers Jeannine Pearce, Suzie Price, Lena Gonzalez, Rex Richardson, Darryl Supernaw and Robert Uranga;
- Signal Hill Councilman Kerr Jones;
- And more.
“It’s really about awareness today,” Ayala said. “Having all walks of life come together for one cause is amazing…I wish there were more drag queens though.”
While there were droves of divas in drag, there were four in particular who stole the show. “It’s the Golden Girls, they’re back together!” Jewels announced through the microphone.
Dozens crowded around to snap pictures of a quartet clad as the familiar characters from the hit 1980s NBC sitcom.
Around the march, a number of supportive parents hoisted signs bearing such slogans as “I love my gay son” and “ God loves our LBGTQ children.”
“I’m here to support my mom and she’s here to support me,” said Roman Roberts, who came to watch her mother march with Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in the parade. “I love how accepting everyone is today.”
Near Lindero Avenue, a group of anit-LGBTQ protesters demonstrated, toting religious signs and urging passers-by to repent for their sins.
“I love this parade,” said Tony Stott, who said he and his husband have been attending the parade for the past decade. “We are in America and everybody deserves to have opinions and be free — including them,” he said of the protesters.
It’s well known in Long Beach that after the parade comes to an end, the real party begins. Unlike any other day of the year, the Ocean and the Broadway corridors become one giant block party with hundreds of residents swinging open their doors to celebrants.
“I don’t know who lives here but there was karaoke here earlier,” said Lorin Ruiz-Mendoza, as she joined several others in a dance party on someone’s lawn.
Despite the parade’s growth over the years, attendees said it has maintained its uniquely local appeal.
“It’s just such a wonderful location with an intimate and community feel,” said Long Beach resident Shish-Wei Scarrasco-Wu, who has been coming for the last six years with his husband. “It’s not has commercialized as [Los Angeles] but it still has that glitz and glamour.”