First-ever Temecula Valley Pride Festival to be held Saturday

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Members and supporters of Temecula Valley Pride march in the Fourth of July Parade in Old Town Temecula this past summer. This Saturday, the group will hold its first-ever Pride Festival in Lake Elsinore. Courtesy photo

Jaimee Flores, the co-founder, executive director and president of the Temecula Valley Pride Festival, is understandably nervous.

First and foremost, there’s the issue of whether people are going to show up or not at the first-ever LGTBQ event Saturday, Oct. 19, at the Lake Elsinore Storm Stadium.

“Well, we’re hoping 1,200-1,500 people, but as you might guess, there’s no sure-fire way of saying, ‘Yeah, we’re going to get 1,500 people,’” Flores said in a phone interview. “But we’re hoping for 1,500 people.”

The chances of Flores and her group reaching their goal is pretty good, however.

The free event will feature live entertainment throughout the day and will be headlined by Groove Co. SoCal. More than 60 vendors will be on hand, and several nonprofits will attend with food provided by food trucks.

Flores said Temecula Valley Pride has reached out to nearby LGTBQ groups and communities in hopes they will travel to support the new festival.

In 2018, Flores said, about 480 people enjoyed a smaller pride picnic hosted by Temecula Valley Pride with only a few vendors. To promote that event, they reached out to local organizations, group members and supporters.

“It was very informal. We didn’t have retail vendors; we didn’t have food trucks,” Flores said. “We kind of had like a big picnic, and we cooked hotdogs and hamburgers and kind of went about it that way. But it set the groundwork for and set the bar a little higher this year to actually have a festival.”

Flores and co-founder Morgan Billings had the idea to do a full-fledged festival three years ago, mostly because they could see that the area deserved to have an LGBT festival of its own.

“We needed to have something in the community and needed to have something like this in this area and someone should take the initiative and trying to make something happen,” Flores said about his conversations with Billings. “And it just came to a point where we kind of looked at each other that day and was, like, ‘Maybe it’s meant to be us. Maybe we should see if it’s something we can do.’”

Creating an event, Flores said, is important to the LGTBQ community in the Temecula Valley.

“Up until now there has been no LGBT identity in this area,” she said. “If you identified as LGBT in any way, shape or form and you wanted to have a community and organization to connect with – you had to go to Riverside maybe or Los Angeles or San Diego or maybe Palm Springs. In our area there was nothing.

“But there is a thriving LGBT community in the Temecula Valley. And up until T.V. Pride, there was no cohesiveness to it. There was no unity to it; there was no identity. And our hope is to bring that unity, bring that identity to fruition and also show the community around us who we are.”

Flores referenced Harvey Milk, the late, first openly gay politician from San Francisco who encouraged the LGBT community to show their fellow residents who they are and how much of the community they actually represent.

“Let your neighbors know that the mailman, the nurse, the teacher, the wealthy man, the person at the bank counter that they see every day; let them know that we are here and that we are an LGBT community,” Flores said. “So that they begin to identify and recognize the normalcy of who we are.

“The other half of our mission is to show our surrounding communities that we’re not an evil force with the hidden agenda. That we are quote-unquote normal – we have jobs and have families and that our agendas are paying our bills and getting home to make dinner and going to buy groceries and putting tires on the car. That we’re just like they are. And that being gay or trans or bisexual or any other flavor of our rainbow is just part of who we are, does not make up entirely who we are,” she said.

Flores said she is aware that certain segments of the southwest Riverside County community don’t share her enthusiasm in achieving those missions.

She said she is aware that protestors may attend the event this year, so the group has enlisted the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department to help as well as a private security agency so guests can feel safe.

“Part of the reason we were apprehensive about that first event in the park was that if we put it out to social media and put it out to media in general, to the media, we might have (protests and demonstrations) and we weren’t ready at the time to handle that,” Flores said. “Honestly we fully expect to have demonstrators at this event.

“We get hatred all the time. And we just look beyond that because we have what we believe to be a greater responsibility to our community and to educating those people that are willing to listen to who we are,” Flores said.

More than anything else, Flores said she hopes everyone from every community can come out to the free event and have a good time.

“We hope that people would come out and say, ‘Oh, I’ve never been to a Pride event, I wonder if it’s anything like San Diego?’” she said. “‘I’ve never been to one because there’s never been one here. Let’s go check that out.’”

Flores emphasized that the event will not feature educational speeches or anything of the sort. It will be a celebration of a community that’s waited a long time for a pride event of their own, she said.

“We don’t want to make it something where people feel like, ‘Well, I’m sitting here and being preached to,’” she said. “No, I think the most impactful testimony we can give is to be ourselves at the event. First of all, I’m wagering that 75% to 80% of the people that are going to attend are either LGBT themselves or are allies. So, that isn’t anything they need to hear. The other 15% to 20% would come to see and participate.

“The greatest testimony we can give is for them to look at us and say, ‘Oh wait, people, normal everyday people,’” Flores said.

The event is sponsored by Anderson Chevrolet and Lululemon. A pre-party will be hosted at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18, at Mad Madeline’s Grill with music by DJ Moe Gigs.

The main event will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at Lake Elsinore Storm Stadium. For more information, visit www.temeculavalleypride.org, email info@temeculavalleypride.org, and follow the group on social media.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com.