The annual SLO Pride Week, held this year from July 4 to July 11, had a noticeably larger turnout than previous pride weeks, said coordinator Robert Kinports.
More people participated in all of the events. Last year, more than 5,000 people attended the festival that is held at the end of the week.
The week is held to “educate the public about (the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) culture and place in society, celebrate our lives on the Central Coast and demonstrate our diversity and pride,” Kinports said.
Even though the county is fairly conservative, it has been fairly tolerant and supportive of the LGBT community, Kinports said.
During the week, support from the local community came in the form of rainbow flags as many downtown businesses displayed them in their windows.
SLO Pride is typically held the second week of July.
This year, Pride Week kicked off on July 4 with a barbeque accompanied by a fireworks show at Pismo Beach. And Comedian Lisa Lampanelli, known as “Comedy’s Lovable Queen of Mean,” performed at the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center July 10.
Events during the week included a drag show, the Central Coast Pride on the Plaza festival, an after-party at Novo and a pride dance. The jam-packed dance was held at Native Lounge, where architectural engineering senior and Pride Center employee Jennifer Ton estimated that about 100 people attended.
The festival, held in the Mission Plaza, included performances by former American Idol contestant Frenchie Davis, singer-songwriter Gabe Lopez and blues-rock band 805 South. It also attracted Rick Jacobs, founder of the non-profit, grassroots organization Courage Campaign, which is an online network with 700,000 members that pushes for progressive change and full equality in California and nationwide.
In addition, the festival featured local vendors and organizations, including the Pride Center, whose booth promoted LGBT awareness through socializing and games.
The week allows diverse people to intermingle, Ton said.
“The best part of Pride (Week) is that the community comes together and the visibility of pride allows for more ally support and a family-friendly environment,” Ton said.
Ton came out as a bisexual during her freshman year of high school; when she first attended Cal Poly, she had to come out again. Groups like Spectrum, Cal Poly’s gay-straight alliance club, the Pride Center in the University Union and allies on campus have been very supportive, she said.
Ton said in the past five years, Cal Poly has seen a change in LGBT attitudes.
During Cal Poly’s Pride Week in May, the “P” on the nearby hillside is painted in all colors of the rainbow. Five years ago during Pride Week, in protest of the celebration, the P was repeatedly re-painted white. This year, however, the P remained rainbow for the entire week.
“We’ve come a long way and I’ve seen that during my four years here at Cal Poly,” Ton said.