By Alex Cordero
Have you ever wondered why Pride is celebrated in June but in the Crown City Pride is commemorated in October? After a few inquiries I was fortunate enough to find the right person to put this question to rest. The answer was simple, but the return of Pride to Pasadena was not quite as easy. We thank everyone involved for bringing Pride to our local community and for continuing to make sure it is kept alive in Pasadena.
Aaron Saenz—co-founder and past president of San Gabriel Valley Pride, Inc. and co-founder, past president and current board member of the San Gabriel Valley LGBTQ Center—played a big role in how Pride made it’s come back to Pasadena in the early 2000s. After coming back from college in New Mexico, where he was highly involved with the LGBTQ community, Saenz started looking for the local LGBTQ community in Southern California. He reached out to the LA LGBT Center but was turned away because he was considered to be outside their service area and they also didn’t know of any programs or services to direct Saenz towards within his community.
He began doing some research during a time when the internet was not as accessible as it is today. He found a local LGBT newsletter and spotted an ad for Pasadena Pride. When he called he was informed by Teresa Quinn, a member of a community based organization called the Catalyst Group, that the planning committee no longer existed. According to Saenz, the Catalyst Group was responsible for the beginning of Pasadena Pride in 1993. The festival was held around Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day, but the event came to an end a few years later.
Saenz was determined to bring and or form an LGBT organization again in his community, and he recounts that after “much persuasive pleading, I was able to convince Teresa to gather a small group to reform and bring Pride back.”
Who gathered? Chris Ramirez, Margo Strik, Teresa Quinn and Saenz all gathered and formed San Gabriel Valley Pride, Inc. Their first event was scheduled for Sept. 14, 2001. However, three days before the event our nation was attacked and I believe it is safe to say plans changed for everyone that year.
“Although we were being instructed by officials to not hold public gatherings, we thought it was important that the community have some form of community outlet to gather and support each other. We decided to just make the event a picnic in Pasadena’s Memorial Park. About 50 people attended the first San Gabriel Valley Pride Festival and from there the event grew.”
After a few years the event changed location but it continued to be celebrated in September. But, in 2016 the event returned to its roots to be celebrated in October to also bring awareness to National Coming Out Day and changed location to Pasadena’s Central Park.
The San Gabriel Valley Pride Inc. organization tagline is “A Different Kind of Pride,” and the Pride festival has always been free and open to the public. Per Saenz, it is also considered to be different because the entertainment for Pasadena Pride has always been local community members. This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 12 in Pasadena’s Central Park. For more information, please visit sgvpride.org.