The first LGBTQ float to ever appear in the Spirit of San Pedro Holiday Parade rusn down Pacific Avenue on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. Photo by Coleen Roche Dunbar.

There was a particular moment for Aiden Garcia-Sheffield when he realized that his float for the Spirit of San Pedro Holiday Parade was more than just a way to market the port town’s newly annual Pride event.

The crew of kids from the Wilmington Middle School Jaguars marching band were gearing up for the big march on Pacific Avenue when they noticed the brightly colored rainbow float behind them. As volunteers took on last minute touches to the Pride on the Port of Los Angeles float—tinsel here, a balloon or five there—band members soon walked up, asking for a flag to pluck into their tall, feathered shako hats in support and pride.

A member of the Wilmington Middle School Jaguar Marching Band walks down Pacific Avenue in San Pedro with a pride flag in their shako hat. Photo by Aiden Garcia-Sheffield.

“As an older gay man, watching our community become more accepted has been unquestionably great,” Garcia-Sheffield said, “but what is truly amazing is watching kids just be themselves, unhinged. There’s a comfort and courage there that took us years upon years to muster up and yet, here they are, middle schoolers just wanting to be supportive. It definitely instills hope in you.”

Garcia-Sheffield and his husband, Daniel, founded Bridge Cities Alliance, the nonprofit that created the South Bay’s first full-fledged Pride event this past June. Thousands attended and, in a city that has largely been sleepy when it comes to the LGBTQ community, was a wake-up call that their gay community is both active and present.

Hugs are exchanged at the Spirit of San Pedro Holiday Parade. Photo by Coleen Roche Dunbar.

To cap off an already historic summer with the Pride event itself, Garcia-Sheffield decided to further cement the LGBTQ community’s presence in San Pedro by having a float in the Spirit of San Pedro Holiday Parade, a decades-long tradition that, up until now, had yet to have any queer-centric float in its 39 years.

And Garcia-Sheffield didn’t march alone: Pam Acosta, longtime youth advocate, joined him along with David Crowley, the founder of San Pedro High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance, and Lori Haig, one of the region’s leaders for the Free Mom Hugs, the advocacy group that attends pride events and parades to give out free hugs to queer youth.

Aiden Garcia-Sheffield. Photo by Coleen Roche Dunbar.

“The reception was simply amazing,” Garcia-Sheffield said. “I mean, some people would raise their eyebrows but they were the few and, more importantly, the ones we just ignored. Most people were screaming, ‘Merry Christmas!’ or run out of the crowd to come give us hugs. It was spectacular.”

There is, however, no sleep for the Garcia-Sheffield household as the begin prepping for next year’s Pride on the Port of Los Angeles, set to take place in June.

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.