By Laura Latzko, June 18, 2015.
Each year, just as summer temperatures begin to bake most of Arizona, the cool climes and shady pines of Flagstaff beckon desert dwellers from near and far.
It’s no coincidence that the Northern Arizona Pride Association (NAPA) perfectly times its annual pride celebration to coincide with the inevitable heat-induced wanderlust that strikes each June.
It’s been 19 years since the inaugural Pride in the Pines festival drew a crown of 300 to the Fort Tuthill County Fairgrounds. In the years that followed, as the celebration gained momentum as attendance and support increased.
Although the Pride celebration has grown over the years, Kathryn Jim, NAPA president, said it continues to have a small-town vibe.
Last year, Pride in the Pines recorded approximately 7,500 attendees over the two-day event. This year, all event festivities will take place June 27 at the Thorpe Park ball fields. And, because it’s a single-day event this year, Jim said she expecting about 4,000 attendees.
The Stage is Set
According to Jim, the goal is to bring in new acts to offer something different for festivalgoers year after year.
This year, three entertainers will headline the Findlay Toyota Main Stage: International recording artists Kristine W. and Neon Hitch and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season three runner up, Manila Luzon.
Known for landing at #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play charts, singer-songwriter Kristine W. has produced such dance hits as “Feel What You Want,” “Stronger,” “Land of the Living” and “One More Try.” (Read Echo's interview with Kristine W. here.)
Neon Hitch, the English recording artist behind the chart-topping song “Ass Back Home” and dance hit “Love U Betta,” has developed an LGBT following by performing at such venues as The Dinah and Phoenix Pride.” (Read Echo's interview with Neon Hitch here.)
While it’s drag that put Manila Luzon in the spotlight, it’s her music that’s bringing her to Flagstaff. In April, Luzon released a video for the song “This Body” – the latest single off her debut album Eternal Queen. Luzon will take the stage at the festival and at an after-party at Collins Irish Pub & Grill.
Miss Gay Arizona USofA Newcomer Aimee V. Justice will host the festival and perform at Friday and Saturday night events at Monsoon Downtown and Collins Irish Pub and Grill, respectively. Justice will be joined by the Eagle 106.7’s own DJ Brittney Patton.
Along with national entertainers, the festival will feature a performance by Flagstaff-based singer and songwriter Brian Benham. The acoustic artist will also perform Friday night at the Speakeasy Lounge as part of the Ladies Night pre-party.” (Read Echo's interview with Brian Benham here.)
Musical comedy troupe Musical Mayhem Cabaret from Tucson, the Phoenix Heatwave line dance troupe from Phoenix and Verde Valley-based reggae roots rock group Kill Babylon Coalition will also perform at the festival.
And, for the second year, the celebration will have a VIP area with a private bar and restrooms, giveaways, massages, catering and a designated main stage seating area.
The Best of the Fest
NAPA not only puts on the pride festival, but also works to foster unity, equality, acceptance and diversity in and around Flagstaff.
“We are celebrating unity, we are celebrating equality, Jim said, “especially here in Arizona.”
Jim, a 16-year Flagstaff resident, said she finds the city to be an accepting place for LGBT individuals.
“Most people are pretty tolerant here in Flagstaff,” Jim said, adding that allies are a big part of the celebration each year – as attendees, exhibitors, sponsors and even entertainment.
A combination of new and returning exhibitors will participate in this year’s festivities. A dental office, the Bravo tipping service and the local Whole Foods Market are among the new businesses participating in the pride event. This year’s sponsors include Flagstaff downtown bars, a national beer company, a local radio station and a banking chain.
Still, the festival would not be possible without the volunteers who play a key role in executing the event. According to Jim, between 75 and 100 local volunteers will take part in this year’s festival, including some volunteers who have been involved since the event’s early years.
Because last year marked the festival’s first time at the Thorpe Park ball fields – which also took place on one of the hottest days of the year – NAPA will provide additional shaded areas for attendees this year.
Annually, Pride in the Pines welcomes attendees of all ages with the invitation: “Have your family join our family at 7,000 feet.” So, it’s seems only fitting that the children’s area follow suit with an expansion, too.
The space will offer bead making, arts and crafts, face painting and a balloon artist for youngsters and their families. Prime Time Athletics, a youth flag football league, will engage children with an obstacle course.
And, for those who want to bring their four-legged family members out to the festival, Jim said the pride celebration is meant for every member of the family, including beloved family pets.
Additionally, the Desert Volleyball Alliance will host the fourth annual Route 66 Classic Volleyball Tournament as part of the Flagstaff pride festival for the second consecutive year.
As part of the 4-on-4 co-ed tournament, teams from the A/AA leagues (more-competitive) and teams from the B and BB leagues (more-recreational) will play at least eight games, with the top five teams advancing to a single-elimination round. Awards will be presented to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place teams. For more information, visit desertvolleyball.com.
Out on the Town
In addition to entertainment and exhibitors Pride in the Pines offers, the informal Flagstaff Pride celebration overflows throughout this northern Arizona oasis.
Attendees, especially visitors, are invited to explore the area – from local restaurants to the natural beauty – while in town for the weekend.
Pride party hosts include Collins Irish Pub & Grill, Speakeasy Lounge and Monsoon Chinese and Sushi Bistro – all of which will host official Pride events, as well as some of the entertainers.
Following the October 2014 ruling that decided Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, NAPA held a citywide celebration and a local judge officiated marriage ceremonies at the event.
“There was a lot of love in the room, and a lot of tears,” Jim said.
This prompted the addition of the Marriage Equality Gathering to the 2015 Pride in the Pines itinerary. The first-ever Flagstaff Pride celebration of Arizona’s marriage equality will take place June 26 at the Inn at 410 and will feature live music, a DJ, appetizers and a cash bar.
As part of the event, guests will have the opportunity to meet with local political leaders. Meagan and Natalie Metz, two of the Flagstaff plaintiffs involved in the Arizona marriage equality lawsuits, will be in attendance. RSVP is required by June 23 at flagstaffpride.org/june-26th-equality-gathering.
The weekend festivities will officially close Sunday with Mimosas on the Mountain Brunch, beginning at 11 a.m., at Monsoon Downtown.
Marriage Equality Gathering
5-8 p.m. at Inn at 410
410 N. Leroux St., Flagstaff
RSVP required at flagstaffpride.org/june-26th-equality-gathering
Ladies Night with Brian Benham
9 p.m. at Speakeasy Lounge
10 N. Leroux St., Flagstaff
Monsoon’s Kickoff Party to Pride with Aimee V. Justice and Friends
10 p.m. at Monsoon Downtown
6 E. Aspen Ave., Flagstaff
Pride in the Pines
Gates open noon;
headliners begin at 7 p.m.
191 N. Thorpe Rd., Flagstaff
Admission: pre-sale, $15 or
$20 at the gate
Saturday Night at Collins with Manila Luzon and Aimee V. Justice
10 p.m. at Collins Irish Pub & Grill
2 N. Leroux St., Flagstaff,
Dance Party at Monsoon Downtown
10 p.m. at Monsoon
Mimosas on the Mountain Brunch
11 a.m. at Monsoon Downtown