Gay Pride Festival This Weekend By CASSIE NORTON

Friday June 24, 2005

This weekend might be a good time to reload your BART pass and avoid driving in San Francisco—the city will be full of revelers for the 35th annual Pride Celebration. 

The celebration is a culmination of the month of pride events that takes place every June. Historically, it is a commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Riots and the birth of the modern gay rights movement. Locally, the mission of the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Celebration Committee is “to educate the world, commemorate our heritage, celebrate our culture, and liberate our people,” according to the Pride website. 

The festivities will be held Saturday, June 25, from noon to 6 p.m. at the Civic Center and continue on Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. A $3 donation is requested, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. Performers include the San Francisco Orchestra on Saturday and Third Eye Blind, En Vogue, BETTY, and third-place American Idol finalist Kimberley Locke on Sunday. The famous Pride Parade begins at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, starting on Market Street at Beale and traveling west to Eighth Street. 

Grandstand seats for the parade can be purchased in advance for $31 per person or for $35 at the parade, and are for sale at the Pacific Center for Human Growth at 2712 Telegraph Ave. The tickets must be purchased in person and paid for with cash. Drop-in hours are Monday through Friday from noon to 6 p.m. or by appointment; however, desk volunteer Lester Marks strongly suggests calling the center beforehand at 548-8283. 

Each year the Pride Committee elects publicly nominated grand marshals, people who have contributed significantly to the LGBT community. This year there are three celebrity grand marshals: retired pro football player turned singer Esera Tualo; Ilene Chaiken, creator of the hit series The L Word ; and Alec Mapa, an openly gay actor, playwright, journalist, comic and performer who writes a regular column for The Advocate called “Minority Report.” 

The grand marshal recognized for lifetime achievement is Jose Sarria, who as an openly gay man working at the Black Cat bar in San Francisco in the 1940s, lead the customers to the local jail to serenade the arrested patrons of area gay bars. In 1961 he was the first openly gay person in the modern world to run for public office. He lost, but the 5,600 votes he garnered drew attention to the importance of the gay voting populace. Sarria later developed the bylaws and functions of what became the Imperial Court of San Francisco, which has grown to become a national philanthropic organization. He remains very active in the community. 

Local grand marshals include Randy Burns, founder of the Gay American Indians in 1975, and an HIV/AIDS and human rights activist; James Hormel, the philanthropist who funded the gay and lesbian center in the San Francisco Library and the first openly gay ambassador; and the Reverend Dr. G. Penny Nixon, Senior Minister of the Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco, a progressive Christian church which “encourages gay people to experience the fullness of their spiritual life.” 

The Pride Committee also awards the “Pink Brick” to a person or organization who has hurt the LGBT community in the past year. This year’s recipient is Sen. Diane Feinstein for her comment that gay marriage was “too much, too fast, too soon.” While this is the most recent incident between Feinstein and the gay community, it is not the first. Feinstein has had a rocky relationship with the community, voting against the first domestic partners’ legislation in 1982 and in favor of closing the San Francisco bath houses. However, she also provided funding for HIV/AIDS during the presidency of Ronald Reagan and supported Grand Marshall James Hormel in his bid for an ambassadorial position. 

According to the committee, this is the first time the Pink Brick has been awarded to someone “we can talk with.” 

The final grand marshal award, given to organizations who have helped the LGBT community, went to PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support), a non-profit organization that assists people with AIDS/HIV and other disabling illnesses in staying together with their companion animals. They are dedicated to educating the community on the benefits and risks of animal companionship and advocating on behalf of the human-animal bond. 

In order to accommodate the crowds, the BART will be providing longer trains on Sunday, as well as event trains before and after the celebration. Trains will operate on a regular Sunday schedule at 20-minute intervals on the Richmond to Fremont, Pittsburg/Baypoint to Millbrae and Dublin/Pleasanton to Daly City lines. BART personnel will be selling BART tickets at tables in selected stations to help ease the demand at ticket machines. A table will be open at the Dublin/Pleasanton and Fremont stations from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m and at the Civic Center from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. BART officials suggest buying round trip tickets to avoid lines before the trip home. 

For more information on the Pride Celebration, call (415) 864 - 3733 or log on to the Pride website, www.sfpride.org.