Pride Visalia 2017 – Historic Site, Historic Event


In 1852, white settlers* built a small fort along the banks of a creek, and started the community that would become Visalia. Used during the Civil War by Union soldiers, dispatched to keep southern sympathizers in Tulare County ‘under control’, the fort eventually faded from the community.  At some point, the grounds became a lumberyard, which served the city and surrounding region for decades. Today, the property is part of the Arts Consortium, and it recently hosted another historic event.

Visalia’s first Prides were held a long time ago, and the local LGBT community has celebrated many events, on and off, over the years. You may have heard that this was the “first” Pride in Visalia, but what is meant is this was the first pride festival hosted by The Source LGBT+ Center. It was also probably the first Pride event to be noticed by the wider community, and was certainly the largest ever held here.

On June 24th, 2,000 people attended Pride Visalia. Two local television stations covered the event, and the Visalia Times Delta printed articles and posted pictures and videos from the festival online. In total, local print media carried four articles about the festival. Local radio stations interviewed the organizers, and the nation’s leading LGBT magazine, The Advocate, posted pictures from Saturday’s event on their website (shared on Facebook over 2,000 times). Facebook tells us that overall, posts about Pride Visalia reached 100,000 people.  Two billboards, one on 99 near Pixley and one in Tulare, heralded the festival to thousands of passerbys.

Five live bands and DJs entertained the crowd. Forty vendors and organizations set up, with nine options for food on site. Nobody went hungry or thirsty, or lacked for information on community resources. Government agencies, local churches, and various non-profits and retail vendors tabled at the event.

Two sets of Drag Queens (and Kings!) entertained the crowds, and the kids got a big kick out of those family-friendly shows. Check out the Visalia Times Delta’s pictures here for a look at the fun.

County Supervisor Amy Shuklian was selected as one of two Grand Marshals for the festival. The award states “Pride Visalia Grand Marshal In Appreciation for Outstanding and Dedicated Service to our LGBT+ Community June 24, 2017”.  I (Jim Reeves) was honored to be selected as the other Grand Marshal. The Source LGBT+ Center’s Executive Director Brian Poth presented the awards at the main stage.

Also held during the festival was a wedding. (News media called it a “gay wedding”, but I just call it “a wedding”) A couple who have been together 14 year tied the knot, with their two young daughters doing duty as flower girls and ring bearers.

Overall, a fantastic turnout, both by the community and local organizations. Corporate sponsors made it possible to bring a top-quality event to Visalia. Between them and the kind donations of cash and effort by so many, the festival was a huge success. And not a single incident requiring security or police response was reported.

Next year Pride Visalia 2018 promises to be even bigger and better!


* one wonders what the native Yokuts thought of the newcomers and their strange structure. 

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