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Palm Springs Celebrates Pride Throughout the Year

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Written By Kevin Perry

During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex (LGBTQI+) Pride Month of June, we reflect on the progress we have made in the fight for justice, inclusion, and equality.

This month, we honor the resilience of LGBTQI+ people fighting to live authentically and freely.  We reaffirm our belief that LGBTQI+ rights are human rights.  And we recommit to delivering protection, safety, and equality to LGBTQI+ people and families.

“It celebrates diversity and inclusivity and creates a platform for individuals and organizations to share and raise awareness of issues that are important to them.” That is a quote from Ron deHarte, CEO of Greater Palm Springs Pride. As a Co-President of the U.S. Association of Prides, deHarte intimately understands the significance of the event and helps to root its legacy in Palm Springs’s landscape.

shag pride poster 2021

A Brief History of Pride

The joyous nature of the various LGBTQ+ festivities that circle the globe stands in stark contrast to the riots that gave birth to Pride as we know it. One year after the 1969 Stonewall uprising tore down the notion that gay people were second-class citizens, queer activists marched to commemorate the event.

The original theme of early parades was Gay Power, but it eventually evolved into Gay Pride. The gatherings aimed to register voters, ratify safety measures for the LGBTQ+ community, and assert a sense of identity for marginalized groups.

Echoes of those fledgling Pride events rippled from the past and into the queer-and-now, igniting passionate responses well beyond the big cities where they started.

first gay pride parade christopher street
The parade was called Christopher Street Liberation Day. The Stonewall Inn is on Christopher Street. The riots at the gay bar and the protests that followed were a turning point for LGBT rights in the United States. Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images

Pride Comes to Palm Springs

In 1986, a modest soiree at the Riviera ballroom (now Margaritaville Palm Springs) comprised the entirety of Pride. Local performers basked in the glow of a dinner party atmosphere, but it would be six more years before the revelry spilled into the streets.

Eartha Kitt Entertaining at 1989 Pride
Eartha Kitt entertaining at the 1989 Palm Springs Pride

1992 witnessed the first Palm Springs Pride parade in our hometown, but it was an understated affair, to say the least. 35 entries snaked their way around Demuth Park, attracting the attention of less than 1,000 guests.

When Palm Springs Pride weekend shifted from the heat of early summer to the cooler appeal of autumn, its attendance skyrocketed.

“We’re not the same old Pride that people may know from 15 years ago,” explains deHarte. “No longer are we a 15,000 person event held behind the walls of a baseball stadium. We’re out in the community, on Palm Canyon Drive, and now Palm Springs Pride is recognized as one of the world’s most must-visited Pride festivals. Last year, American Express named us one of the 12 Pride events worth traveling for. We’ve been on the Instinct Magazine’s list for the 12 most fabulous worldwide events.”

pride poster arthur coleman

When asked why our humble hamlet ranks among the best fests worldwide, deHarte answers earnestly, “The city itself sets us apart, makes us very unique.”

Beaming with local fervor, deHarte continues, “Palm Springs truly is like no place else. We’re known as a friendly festival. So, you have large festivals all over California, and sometimes people may get lost in the so much going on. But you come to Palm Springs, and even though we’re a large-scale Pride Festival, we’re very friendly, people enjoy themselves, and there’s just this sense of Pride in the inclusivity in Palm Springs. And when that’s combined with people from all around the world, with our residents, it’s just something that people truly find a place of joy and have a great time.”

Giving Back, Going the Distance

While some party weekends are satisfying in a superficial sense, Pride runs deeper. Not only does the event coordinate its efforts with a myriad of charity organizations, but it also transcends November and extends throughout the calendar.

“The weekend’s very important for the Palm Springs community because it helps us fundraise for activities that exist throughout the entire year in Palm Springs,” narrates deHarte.

“The Palm Springs Pride organization has an incredible focus on youth in the community.  We directly fund youth LGBTQ activities throughout Coachella Valley and support the Gay-Straight Alliances in 55 different schools now.  That’s one of the things that, throughout the year, we work with youth; we continue to engage youth in the community through our different programs.  We also generally engage the community with programs like the Cesar Chavez Breakfast and the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast.  We raise awareness year-round in our programs focusing on community activism and awareness.”


The litany of philanthropic successes that Palm Springs Pride continues to achieve warms our hearts and inspires our brains. Every time we look back through revelatory pics of Pride’s past, the calculator in our brains starts to crunch the numbers. There are so many participants and so much love—it truly is a festival of humankind on a grand scale.

It’s Only Getting Grander

“We’re expecting a good crowd of people this year,” deHarte predicts. “What’s important about Pride is it brings together the LGBTQ community and our allies to celebrate. Celebrate who we are as a community, celebrate the inclusivity of the community, our diversity, and the creativity our community brings together. And this year’s important because everybody’s ready. Everybody’s ready to get out and celebrate Pride.”

Lani Garfield - PhotosbyLani palm springs pride
Credit: Lani Garfield

Guiding our parade to its finish line, deHarte concludes, “Pride in Palm Springs has taken on a new life.”

What a perfect final note to hit. Life is what Pride gives us. The life of an epic party, the life we cherish in the wake of a devastating pandemic, and the life we commemorate from those formative gay marches. We stand for those who no longer can and raise our collective voices in their honor.

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