Ditching archaic name, Long Beach Pride rebrands and hires new producer for festival

The organization behind Long Beach’s much loved Pride festival has had its long share of problems: an archaic name that excluded a huge portion of the LGBTQ community (“Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride”), accusations of mismanagement and litigation, and a festival that felt dated and exclusionary.

Entering a new century hasn’t proved easy.

But it appears the organization has heard these concerns from the community. Not only has it formally altered its name to the more inclusive moniker of Long Beach Pride—a name which “now reflects our mission of encouraging even more inclusion and embracing the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, and its allies,” in the words of Long Beach Pride President Denise Newman—the organization has partnered with JJ|LA for its festival.

JJ|LA is a significant choice in all this because it is the same crew that has put on the more recent string of L.A. Pride events, all of which have sold-out and keep bringing in millions in sponsorships.

Some say it is unfair to compare L.A. Pride to Long Beach. The City of West Hollywood, unlike Long Beach, provided the festival organizers with $1.87 million in subsidies while Christopher Street West, the nonprofit that organizes the festival, brought in some $1.85 million in sponsorships, including a $1 million gift from Verizon, the largest in the festival’s history. So, with a budget of more than $3 million, organizers can book high-quality performers and festival headlines such as Megan Trainor, Kehlani, Charli XCX, Years and Years, Chromeo, and Carley Rae Jepsen, over the past couple of years.

But it still speaks volumes that Long Beach Pride is itself stepping away from organizing the festival, which it has done since the event’s inception in 1984. Across the decades, spending boomed and contracts began to become more “buddy”-centric than professionally driven, with some board members accused of abusing the pot of money used to make the event possible. The result has been a steady decline in festival attendance and quality, and, with the hiring of JJ|LA, Long Beach Pride seems to acknowledge that.

If the event lives up to the caliber of the company’s past events, it could very well shift Long Beach’s Pride festival toward becoming a destination event that is contemporary, inclusive and regional. In addition, it could make the organization itself more financially stable by luring in lucrative sponsorships that go beyond Bud Light.

But that all depends on the quality of the event. With nothing more than saying they will provide attendees with an “enhanced festival experience” thanks to their partnership with JJ|LA, specific details about the shift in the festival’s feel and appearance are sparse. According to representatives of Long Beach Pride, more details will be released in the coming weeks and months as the festival approaches.

The 37th Annual Long Beach Pride Festival & Parade will take place on May 15 through May 17. A teen-centric Pride event will take place on May 15 while the two-day festival spans May 16 and 17; the parade will take place on May 17. For early bird tickets and more information, click here.

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

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