Colorado Springs PrideFest still scheduled despite fires
Themed 'We the People,' 22nd Springs Pride Parade a benchmark of LGBT progress
July 2, 2012 | 2:37 pm
(Updated: February 22, 2013 | 6:49 pm)
Despite a still-active wildfire that has consumed thousands of acres of forest and more than 300 homes on the western edge of Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Pride is still planned to proceed as scheduled, organizers announced.
The city’s 22nd annual Pride parade, marching Sunday, July 22 at noon down Tejon Street from East Cache La Poudre Street to Acacia Park, is an event that takes note of the past and the present. The theme this year: We the people.
It comes with the two-day Colorado Springs PrideFest the weekend of July 21 and 22 at Acacia Park, with an expected 50,000 attendees and more than 175 vendors.
“One of the things we feel is important is to bring back the intention of what PrideFest was,” said Charles Irwin, Executive Director of Colorado Springs Pride, the community center organizing the event.
The Pride Center at 2508 Bijou Street opened its doors to the public as an emergency fire resource “for LGBT and of course all individuals that may need a safe and perhaps cooler place to go during this fire emergency,” the organization posted on its website, when more than 30 thousand people were evacuated from their homes during the Waldo Canyon Fire.
Irwin could not be reached for comment after the steadily-growing wildfire on June 26 sent the city and state into crisis mode. But on June 28 after the fire’s growth began to slow and appeared to be less of an ongoing threat to Colorado Springs residents, the Pride Center tweeted from @CSPrideCenter, “We have been getting a lot of calls asking if PrideFest is still going to go on. The answer is YES.”
Irwin said a theme of this year’s event is education, on how the annual tradition of Pride began with the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City.
“Across the country and across the world we see PrideFest as being a big celebration,” said Irwin. “And that’s great, but we want to try to begin to reeducate folks. They may not be aware of how Pride started,” Irwin said.
The 1969 riots were sparked by a police raid at a time when gay bars were raided routinely. The first parade was a march, commemorating the riots’ first anniversary.
The first Colorado Springs Pride has its own activist origin, held in June 1991 when approximately 250 people marched down Tejon Street in the heart of the city, holding banners and shouting chants. It was organized in part to protest the Colorado Springs City Council’s rejection of a civil rights ordinance that would have protected the rights of LGBT residents.
It was trailed by vocal opponents. One individual dragged a large cross as he heckled the marchers. Only about 100 spectators stood on sidewalks.
Since then, Irwin said, Colorado Springs Pride has come a long way.
“We had 25,000 people last year,” he said, “And with the new addition of the family day on Saturday, I see that doubling.”
This year’s festival will feature an Animal Rescue Parade, a beer garden sponsored by The Underground, a Commitment Booth and The Royal Line featuring local activists. The Colorado LGBT Color Guard will make its inaugural appearance in the city’s Pride parade.
“Carrying that flag is so powerful,” Irwin said, noting the city’s significant military presence. “It is the one [addition] I’m most excited about.”
It shows how far the city has come, Irwin said.
“We do have our challenges in the conservative nature of Colorado Springs,” Irwin said. “But I feel that the majority of the general population is in support of equality.”
Irwin encourages people from all over the state to attend. “It would be helpful if folks from Denver and other areas did come down and support us. Show our elected officials, who are not always supportive, that it is time for them to let go of the inequalities and start supporting equality,” he said.
Since 1978, COSPride has been an LGBT home base in Colorado Springs – one of the oldest LGBT community centers in the nation, organizing three main elements: The main center where LGBT people have a safe place to commune, the Pride Business Network and PrideFest.
“Our main focus,” said Irwin, “is to connect people, to support those people, and then empower those people.”