Watch Out, LA Pride. Long Beach Pride Is Coming For Your Wig

A crosswalk painted in rainbow colors at the intersection of Broadway and Junipero Avenue in Long Beach (Lita Martinez)

If you're a queer person who loves parades, loud music, and big crowds, this the most wonderful time of the year.

Yes, Pride season is here!

But wait, you say — it's still May? Isn't Pride during the month of June?

That may be the case for most of the United States, but Long Beach gets the party started a few weeks early.

WHY LONG BEACH PRIDE > LA PRIDE

When it comes to major pride events in Southern California, most people tend to think of the huge parade in West Hollywood, which has been going strong since 1970.

But 36 years ago, a group of LGBT activists in Long Beach got together to start their own celebration. The city's gay and lesbian community had grown by leaps and bounds by the early '80s, and despite early clashes with openly homophobic city councilmembers, organizers say the celebration has now grown up to be one of the biggest Pride events in the country with thousands expected to turn out this year.

While it's clear that Long Beach Pride has come into its own (this Long Beach writer may be showing her bias), there's still some debate over which city throws the best party.

Naturally, we had to do some totally scientific and not opinionated reporting to get the tea and settle the debate once and for all. Here's what we came up with:

1. CHILL VIBES AND FAMILIAR FACES

L.A. may boast the big city name recognition, but according to travel site Orbitz, Long Beach is the fourth most popular city for Pride this year — and L.A. didn't even crack the top ten.

It may very well be because Long Beach is... well, a lot more laid-back.

Desiree Wooden-Jones of East Long Beach has been going to the city's pride festivities for the past six years.

"It's the kind of thing where I can bring my dog or my little nephews," Santos said. She also noted that she recognizes a lot of familiar faces every year, and that gives the parade more of a "hometown" feel. "We're all pretty much each other's neighbors."

And that may not be a coincidence: the city estimates that about 80,000 of its nearly 494,000 residents identify as LGBTQ — about 17% of its population. That's more than four times what's believed to be the national average.

2. CLOSER TO HOME

Long Beach also boasts a handful of neighborhoods (or shall we say... gayborhoods?) with the highest concentrations of same-sex female households in L.A. County.

For some, like Alvin Ruíz, the choice to stay close to home or hit the 710 to celebrate is an easy decision.

"I don't like to sit in traffic, and I sure don't want to look for parking," Ruíz said, with a laugh. "And I'm just too old for all that craziness in West Hollywood, anyway."

3. SMALLER IS BETTER

Long Beach Pride organizers say their two days of festivities are expected to draw more than 80,000 people — far fewer than the 400,000 that could pack Santa Monica Boulevard for LA Pride.

But bigger isn't necessarily better. Hundreds of eager ticket-holders for last year's LA Pride festival were turned away at the gates after the event was oversold.

That's not to say it's all smooth sailing for the organizers of Long Beach Pride. The Long Beach Post reports that the group has faced persistent financial shortfalls and infighting among its board members.

BUT...

Let's face it: Pride is about coming together. In the end, it doesn't matter whether you open your heart down Ocean Boulevard or sashay down Santa Monica Boulevard this year.

Ashley Dunn, who's enjoyed the parade in WeHo for the past few years, said she plans to make it to Long Beach for Pride someday. She says it's important for her to show up and be seen.

"I love seeing everyone out in support of each other — the inclusion and love is a huge bonus," she said.

Me too, Ashley. Me too.

THE DEETS

Long Beach Pride

Sunday, Marcy 19

Start location: Lindero Avenue and Ocean Boulevard

Schedule:

  • 9:30 a.m. Pre-parade show with parade grand marshals Kate Linder of The Young and the Restless fame and RuPaul's Drag Race Season 3 contender (and Long Beach native) Delta Work
  • 10:30 a.m. Step-off

A music festival will take place at the Marina Green, featuring bounce music diva Big Freedia, ranchera crooner Pablo Montero, and a whole slew of DJs. Fans can also catch a Selena tribute band and Arcoiris, an all-LGBT mariachi group, at the Estrella Jalisco stage.