There was good reason for Jaimee Flores, the co-founder, executive director and president of the Temecula Valley Pride Festival, to be nervous heading into the Saturday, Oct. 19 event.
But soon after the gates opened, her fears subsided.
More than 1,000 people came to Lake Elsinore Storm Stadium for the inclusive, free event that featured live entertainment and more than 60 vendors.
“It is probably what we hoped for and more honestly,” Flores said. “We just wanted people to be able to see a little bit more of the community and come out and offer something more to them. And I think now with the amount of people that are coming in, the number of vendors we have and just the reception and the comments from people about how much we’ve grown in the span of a year – and then compared to what we really want to accomplish in the next and the third year and the fourth year – we couldn’t be happier. It’s great. I love it.”
Last year, Temecula Valley Pride was more of a picnic with limited promotion and very few vendors.
This year, the event was promoted on the radio, in news articles and in neighboring communities.
That brought in local vendors like The Yoga Barre and Lululemon Temecula.
Lauren Fournier of Lululemon Temecula heard about plans for the festival and contacted the festival staff to get involved.
“I slid into their DMs, literally, to find out how can we support,” Fournier said. “Lululemon has been doing activations for Pride the last two years. It’s been important to me as a person, but knowing I’d have support companywide, I really wanted to find out like, well what could we do? So we met them, I got Nicole involved because we’ve had a lot of talks about wanting to do more with pride in the LGBT community here in Temecula.”
According to Nicole Moran from The Yoga Barre, she was glad she got pulled into the festival.
“It’s great and everything’s been going so smoothly,” Moran said. “I’m so excited to be part of it. This was really fun to watch everybody and all the kids and the families, everybody come together.”
“The thing that’s like been the coolest, and we were talking about this, like there was like a little sense of nervousness,” Fournier said. “How’s the community going to accept it? I’ve seen nothing but gratitude, excitement and just like, surprise. Because we’ve done some in-store events too and we’ve been posting a lot for this and everyone that’s come in and seen the proud and present, the rainbow flag has just said ‘thank you.’
“I’ve seen nothing but support in this community. And I think it just kind of like showing how much it’s growing.”
Kelly Ortiz, community outreach director for Temecula Valley Pride has also seen the changes. She said when her daughter came out six years ago in the Temecula area, which she said is a more conservative community, she faced more negativity than she does today.
“I think we’re changing that demographic year by year,” Ortiz said. “There were a lot more comments, a lot more negativity and now it’s like people are just quiet if they have nothing nice to say. So, it’s nice to see that.”
The reaction from the public toward the festival, specifically those that don’t agree with the LGTB community, was something of a concern as well. There were at least a half dozen members of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department on hand to make sure nobody got out of hand.
It also added a layer of security for the LGBT community to feel as though the festival was a safe space.
“As a trans person, I’ve had that issue before where you never know stepping into a restaurant or any type of a venue, what type of reception you’re going to get by being the person that you genuinely are,” Flores said. “And here it’s a community of those people. Where else can you feel safer? It’s what we call the queer space, right? In the queer space you can be yourself because the atmosphere in the space itself is full of people that are supportive and are like you and like-minded.”
For those that missed this year’s festival, Flores thinks they won’t miss it again next year.
“Or maybe some that might have chosen not to come, when they hear and they see the pictures and they see comments from their friends and think, ‘You know, I should have gone. I should have taken a chance and should’ve taken the time and gone.’ But our community is growing stronger and stronger every time.
“I’m so happy to see the number of people that are here today and supporting just by being here. I have a lot of hope for 2020 and 2021 and all our future events,” Flores said.
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.