This year, Pride means partying and commitment.
The emphasis for the 35th annual LGBT Pride in the Desert festival, presented this weekend by Tucson Pride Inc., is on building a stronger community, which is reflected in this year's theme, "Pride Links Us Together."
This year, all Pride activities are downtown, including the main events: the all-day festival and the Pride on Parade procession, on Saturday, Oct. 13. Queertopia, the Friday-night kickoff pool party, will be held at the Riverpark Inn, while the Saturday-night after-party will take place over at Club Congress.
"We wanted to bring the party downtown, to help emphasize that Pride is a part of the central community of Tucson," said Karon Bohlender, president of Tucson Pride Inc.
Tucson Pride—which is recovering from some well-publicized financial problems—has partnered with Fluxx Productions to produce the two parties bookending the festival.
"Fluxx has a commitment to community, like Pride. They're a wonderful presenter and always an important source of arts and entertainment here in Tucson. We're lucky to have an organization like theirs to help bring the arts to the parties," Bohlender said.
Fluxx will produce the kickoff bash Queertopia, an all-ages pool party at the Riverpark Inn, 350 S. Freeway, between Broadway Boulevard and 22nd Street. It includes DJs and go-go dancers as well as a sing-along screening of the movie Mamma Mia! The hostess for the pool party will be Miss Ajia Simone, who will serve in the same capacity for the Saturday festival. Admission to Queertopia is $10, or $5 for attendees 18 and younger.
Although there was a gate fee for previous Pride in the Desert festivals, this year's main event, on Saturday, is free.
"The festival spotlight this year is on local artists, which also marks going back to our roots and reinforces our community theme, and we wanted to keep it free for that reason. But we will be accepting donations to help defray the costs of the festival," Bohlender said.
Bohlender said last year's Pride drew 3,500 people. Because this year's festival is free, she is expecting the number of attendees to exceed 5,000.
"We're hoping our events will be integrated into the activity moving through downtown for Tucson Meet Yourself and 2nd Saturdays," she added.
The parade will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday, when more than 25 entries will march north on South Sixth Avenue from 18th to 12th streets, converging on Armory Park, 220 S. Fifth Ave. Grand marshals for this year's parade are David and George Ruder, along with their daughter, Marianna. The family is the recipient of this year's Rainbow Build home, created by Habitat for Humanity.
Also on hand will be youth grand marshal Carly Frieders, a freshman at Walden Grove High School in Sahuarita. Frieders is this school year's Tucson-area ambassador to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, aka GLSEN.
Among the organizations participating in the parade will be the Tucson Interfaith HIV/AIDS Network, or TIHAN; the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, aka SAAF; and Wingspan.
"There will also be a military contingent this year, the American Military Partner Association, as well as Mormons for Marriage Equality," Bohlender said.
The Armory Park festival will run from noon to 8 p.m. and include performances by local acts Flight School, Grite Leon, Leila Lopez, Jaime J., Cirque Roots, Courtney Robbins, Black Cherry Burlesque and others.
At 6:30 p.m., the festival will include a mass commitment ceremony led by the Rev. Brian Fox. Couples in partnership will have the opportunity to affirm or reaffirm their commitments. "We'll also be available at this time to help partners sign up for the city of Tucson's domestic-partner registry," Bohlender said.
After Pride in the Desert concludes at the park, the celebrations will continue at the after-party, starting at 9 p.m. at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St.
Illusion: A Fool's Paradise, presented by Fluxx, is a carnivalesque dance party with DJs O/W/L/S and performances by Meow Mixx, Cirque Roots, Flight School and SwitchBlade Parade. Mistress of ceremonies Tempest DuJour will be the host for a parody of a vintage TV game shows. Admission is $5.
VIP and ultimate passes, which include many special perks, are available and cover all the events. For more information, visit www.tucsonpride.com.