Ooh-la-la! The French Festival returns to Oak Park next Saturday and Sunday for its 26th year of celebrating Bastille Day and French culture and influence all over the world, from Vietnam to New Orleans.
Visitors will be able to check out the can-can, listen to chanson, eat baguettes and wear berets freely. Basically, if it’s French in any way, you’ll find it at the park.
The LGBT community has a lot to celebrate this year as Pride at the Beach approaches Saturday.
During 2014, Oregon and Pennsylvania became the 18th and 19th states to legalize same-sex marriage, and as recently as this month Kentucky’s ban on the same was declared unconstitutional by a federal district court.
“After the DOMA decision last year, there was so much joy at the Festival,” says David Selberg, executive director of the Pacific Pride Foundation, a Santa Barbara-based organization that provides services for the LGBT community.
In other years the LGBT community partied in defiance but this time there’s cause to have fun, and Mr. Selberg is looking forward to the Saturday beach party that attracts somewhere between 5,000 to 6,000 attendees.
More than 40 vendor booths are planned along with food trucks and a dance tent sponsored by Wildcat Lounge. Live performers and speakers will take the stage.
The event has been held at Leadbetter Beach since 2006, when Mr. Selberg returned to Pacific Pride Foundation and was asked by many to fill the gap left with the closing of Santa Barbara’s last gay club.
Although Santa Barbara had its first Pride event in 1990 at Oak Park, the 2006 beach festival started something new.
“A lot of the community just wanted to have a sense of itself, as we achieved so much in our civil rights,” Mr. Selberg said. “It’s all so nice to come together, not just the LGBT community but our straight allies, and just celebrate.”
The highlights of the festival are the performers.
Cazwell is still a rarity in the hip-hop world: an out singer from New York — “If Biggie Smalls ate Donna Summer for breakfast,” as his PR agency bills him.
His hilarious song “I Saw Beyonce at Burger King” popped up on social network feeds in 2008 and since then he’s been a fixture of New York club life.
“He’s a big act at Pride shows across the country and we were lucky to get him a gig here,” Mr. Selberg said.
Fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race reality show will want to come see Morgan McMichaels, one of the big stars of the second season, who will be performing. Rock music comes from Lunden Reign, an up-and-coming Los Angeles band, and local artists Kat Devlin, SB Drag Divas and Technical Difficulties, among others.
And then there’s the third annual “Put Your Paws Up” dog show, where entrants are invited to dress up their pooch in rainbow gear and show off their canine skills. The “Pet with the Most Pride” gets to take home a prize.
Rep. Lois Capps and Assemblyman Das Williams will speak, as will Mayor Helene Schneider.
For those who can’t wait for Saturday, plenty of events lead up to the event.
At 6 p.m. Wednesday, Pacific Pride hosts a soiree at the Canary Hotel rooftop, free to enter and mingle. At 8 p.m. Thursday, the Wildcat will throw a Pride Girl Party, featuring Lesbo Bingo in the first two hours, and then the Drag Kings will perform.
On Friday, a photographic exhibit, “The Self Evident Truth Project,” features the work of photographer IO Tillet Wright, who documents people across America who don’t identify as 100 percent straight. Admission to the show at Santa Barbara Art Foundry is $15.
After Saturday’s festival, the party continues at Tonic Nightclub downtown, with encore performances of the festival’s drag shows, along with music all night, starting at 8 p.m. for $15 to $20.
On Sunday, Jill’s Place on Santa Barbara Street is hosting Pride Brunch, with a portion of proceeds going to Pacific Pride.
For many in the LGBT community, the Pacific Pride Festival can be important on a personal level, Mr. Selberg said.
“They can be young or they can be 80, but I’ve heard people say the first time they ever came out was at a Pride festival. And it’s always heartening to me, that coming to a Pride fest is a big deal. It’s still relevant and that visibility is a big thing.”
The Pacific Pride Festival runs from noon to 7 p.m., Saturday at Leadbetter Beach. Admission is free.