Nov 7 - Dec 31, 2019

SPOTLIGHT – Salinas Valley Pride Celebrations

Salinas Valley Pride Celebrations was founded nine years ago in recognition of the fact that despite its proximity to the San Francisco Bay area, known for its lively and vibrant LGBTQ community, the Salinas Valley hasn’t developed its own flourishing scene.

“There’s a variety of kind of analogous groups,” Salinas Valley Pride Celebrations board member Eric Mora says. “They celebrate Hispanics in the area, Italian American groups on the Peninsula, Asian American groups in the Salinas area, but you don’t really have a concentrated effort of LGBTQ people, just to showcase that we are in fact here – and we are proud of our identity.”

The nonprofit’s events are family-friendly in focus – different than some that San Francisco counterparts host and what some guests might expect. And all events are free of charge, removing a barrier for some guests. Bridging this socioeconomic gap is the heart of the group’s Big Idea for Monterey County Gives!, keeping events free to attend.

“We wanted to create something local that didn’t create those barriers to entry,” Mora says. “We all are just people trying.”

The all-volunteer-run group represents a cross-section of the community at large, people with a range of jobs and incomes. The mission is, fundamentally, to be inclusive to all.

“We do want to continue with being family centric; it makes us stand out from the larger pride celebrations,” Mora says. “We want to be as family-oriented and as inclusive as possible.”

In 2018, the group’s Pride Celebration was held at Toro Park, where a drag performer led a storytelling session for children who might have never before seen someone in drag. Planned Parenthood representatives highlighted resources available to the local LGBTQ community. The CSUMB Center for Arts and Culture hosted a family hub with pop-up games.

Costs to host a celebration like the one in Toro Park run close to $11,000, including staging, performers and security. Goals for 2019 also include branching out from events and launching a scholarship for LGBTQ students. All of those goals aside, the group’s efforts remain centered on the basics: bringing awareness to the fact that being different is OK, and celebrating those differences in the community at-large, alongside heterosexual allies at fun and inclusive gatherings.

“Pride celebrations are mostly closely associated with LGBTQ,” Mora says, “but it’s a celebration for everyone involved. It benefits the entire community.”