Photo by Kevin Dooley, courtesy Flickr, CC BY 2.0

What Final Four? Phoenix Pride Festival Returns This Weekend

Written by Isabella Castillo Category: Culture Issue: March 2017

As the song goes, “Somewhere over the rainbow, sexual orientation and gender identity of all kinds are embraced and celebrated.”

OK, so maybe that's not exactly how the song went, but it's an apt description of what Steele Indian School Park will be like this weekend during the annual Phoenix Pride Festival.

From noon to 9 p.m., the two-day celebration of the LGBTQ community is hosting a whole string of musical performances, live entertainment, an arts expo and parade. What Final Four?

Belinda Carlisle will headline the main stage on Saturday, followed by Aaron Carter as the headliner on Sunday. Other performers include Brian Justin Crum, KORR-A, Los Chicos de 512, Ninel Conde, a slew of DJs and drag queens galore.

The arts expo will take place inside the festival both days with local vendors selling photographs, paintings, handmade jewelry, henna and more.

True to its inclusive nature, the festival will have activities that cater to all ages. For the kiddos, there will be bouncy houses, crafts and face paint. On the opposite end of the park is another tent for more mature audiences. Erotic World, if the name is not self-explanatory, is a tent celebrating the side of LGBTQ life that is less PG-rated. It will host a number of demos, exhibitions and live performances.

With more than 2,000 participants expected, Sunday’s parade will march down Third Street from Thomas to Indian School at 10 a.m. This time around, participants and floats will be lighthearted and colorful, though the 35-year-old event hasn’t always been sunshine and, well, rainbows. Phoenix’s first pride march occurred in 1981, and was staged by a group of gay and lesbian activists to advocate for LGBT rights. Over 700 participated.

The national LGBT civil rights movement was born out of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, and the history of activism in Phoenix did not trail far behind. In 1975, couple Sam Burnett and Tony Secuya successfully obtained an Arizona marriage license, which was met with expected resistance. Later that year, a bill was proposed to ban same-sex marriage in the state. According to Arizona State University's library on LGBT history in Arizona, activists Allen Kather and Wally Conoway protested the bill by fasting outside the house chambers. Afterward, they were married.

In the years following, numerous organizations and activist committees were formed, and the first Gay Pride week was celebrated in Phoenix in June of 1977. The first official Phoenix Pride Festival began in 1991.

Thirty years later, the tradition lives on through Phoenix Pride, which seeks to promote unity, visibility and self-esteem among individuals of the LGBTQ community. Tickets for the 2017 Pride Festival are $22.67 for one day, and $33.22 for both days. For more information, visit