While the annual Rainbow Pride Parade couldn’t celebrate its 30th anniversary two years ago in-person due to COVID-19, organizers worked to make the 32nd year’s festivities and the return to an in-person celebration special.
Over 80 groups participated in marching or driving the half-mile route along Olive Avenue on June 4, including local community organizations, companies, politicians, churches and more.
The parade was followed by a Pride Festival at Fresno City College, which featured over 130 booths and charged $5 for attendance. A partnership between the festival committee and the Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission provided shuttle buses between locations.
Tyler Smith, who marched with his church and helped design their float, said a lot of time and work went into appealing to attendees.
“We wanted to be bigger and better this year, and we wanted to make all the people who came out glad that they did,” he said. “We had something special to honor this year too.”
While the original theme, “Bouncing back with PRIDE,” was focused on the return to an in-person event, it transitioned to “In PRIDE” to honor the late Fresno Rainbow Pride CEO Jeffery Robinson, who frequently used the phrase in email sign-offs, after he passed on March 9, 2022.
Within the local LGBTQ+ community, Robinson was called the unofficial “Gay Mayor of Fresno.” He was well-known for his LGBTQ+ activism.
Robinson also served as a keynote speaker for multiple LGBTQ+ events and rallies at Fresno State, and co-organized “Expression Not Suppression” with the GSA Network, presenting workshops on the history of drag, LGBTQ+ history and healthy relationships.
The Fresno Flyer reported that Robinson had previously called pride a “spiritual recharge.”
“For many people in the community, it’s a rare opportunity to express who they truly are without fear or judgment and interact with others who share the same experiences,” he said.
Fresno State recently celebrated Pride Month with its second annual pride flag raising, where multiple speakers claimed this year’s event was particularly important. Attendees echoed those concerns after the Pride Parade.
Fresno State sophomore Maria Robles, who identifies as queer, also attended the pride flag raising event on campus.
“Some speakers at the flag [event] talked about how we need to keep fighting to make sure we don’t lose any of our rights, and I think that’s really sad but also it’s true. I’m glad so many people showed up at the parade,” she said.
Fresno State alumnus Brenda Alvarez, who traveled from Madera for the event, identifies as non-binary and goes by they/them pronouns.
“I’m so glad we got to do this in-person again. There was someone here protesting earlier, and it made me think, ‘This is why we have to do this,’” they said.
Alvarez said they hope people will continue to show up for pride year-round after the parade.
“I personally still experience discrimination, and I know a lot of people who do. There were so many people at the parade and that’s great, but they need to keep showing up and keep fighting to make sure we don’t take a step back. Not just in June, but all the time,” Alvarez said.