Some people come for the performers — a diverse offering of drag queens, singers, comedians and artists. Other people just like the opportunity to dress up, see friends and celebrate love.
Whatever the reason, Bisbee’s weekend Pride celebration has become a favorite in the county and the state, drawing in crowds to fill the historic town with color and fun, while also remembering the struggle to achieve equal rights and representation for the LGBTQ+ community.
The festivities kick off Friday and continue on through Sunday, featuring drink and food specials at many of the eateries and bars, shows, dancing, the parade and special movie screenings of LGBTQ+ films.
The event is a large undertaking, one helmed by Bisbee Pride, a nonprofit that started back in 2004 by a group of LGBTQ+ friends who wanted to bring a Pride celebration to Bisbee. It has since grown into an organization that works year round to support the LGBTQ in Cochise County.
President Ramon Garcia said the event had only gotten bigger each year and the town of Bisbee is a community that welcomes diversity.
“It’s a liberal bastion that still remains in Cochise County — there’s a high degree of tolerance, of acceptance and evidence in that is Bisbee Pride which started with a group of friends doing picnics here and there and dinners.”
“It grew into a celebration of the accomplishments we have had, remembering what Stonewall was all about ... looking for equality and more important is the fact that the community comes together to put on a Pride event in Arizona unlike any other.”
While Pride events across the globe are a time to celebrate diversity and have a good time, this year marks an especially large milestone for the event.
This is the 50-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, widely recognized as one of the major historical points in LGBTQ+ history. On June 28, 1969 police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village, New York. The raid would spark six days of protests and clashes.
The month of June was named Pride Month to commemorate Stonewall and the LGBTQ+ activists who stood up for equality.
As part of the celebration, there will be a screening of “Where Pride Began — Stonewall” at The Royale on Saturday starting at 6 p.m.
Garcia said the Bisbee Mining Museum will also bring a series of panels that will be on display for free to the public that display LGBTQ+ history of the state.
The festivities begin on Friday with the crowd-favorite lingerie pub crawl starting at Contessa’s Cantina. There will also be a burlesque show called Pride Risque’ Extravaganza featuring both male and female dancers and The De Strangé Sisters at the Magic Theater.
Saturday will be a day filled with dancing and headlining act David Hernandez, a singer who was a finalist on American Idol and performed at the Inaugural Ball of Barack Obama.
One of the most well-known points of the three-day event is the Pride Parade which takes place down Main Street. The road will fill with different organizations and groups bearing signs, costumes and hand outs.
Garcia said the quality of entertainers isn’t just enticing to guests of the event, but also community members.
”It gives back to the community, businesses prosper making money on a weekend where they would not normally see that amount of people,” Garcia said. “The community benefits from it and it gives them a chance to get out and see a great event.”
This year’s event will be concentrated in the downtown area of Old Bisbee with much of the activities happening at a new venue for the event, the Magic Theater on outdoor stage behind the Copper Queen Plaza.
The fun will conclude on Sunday with Redemption Sunday at the Magic Theater from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be a variety of games, activities and performances including Twisted Sister Bingo and giveaways.
Each year, Bisbee Pride choose a community organization to give back and this year it’s the Bisbee homeless shelter. All proceeds from Redemption Sunday will go to the shelter.
The Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an LGBTQ+ advocates group who dress as nuns, were named grand marshals of Bisbee Pride this year to honor them for all their help over the years on this event, and will host Twisted Sister Bingo.
Garcia was thankful to all their sponsors and the community who supports this event. As someone who grew up in Bisbee, he spoke to the tolerance and acceptance of the small town. Bisbee Pride is striving to keep that open heart alive.
”It’s not just the people who come to Pride to enjoy, it exposes the community we live in to some normalcy ... what the LGBTQ+ community is and it’s free entertainment,” Garcia said. “It destigmatizes a lot of things for people who may have never experienced this.”
”We all know somebody who is LGBTQ+ by just the breadth of numbers but we’ve always kind of known them at a distance. Bisbee Pride kind of says ‘look, we’re your neighbors, we’re not over there, not some oddity on TV or a movie or something that happens in big cities; we are everywhere.’”
There a variety of ticket options, ranging from $1 for the youth dance to $80 for a V.I.P. pass which includes a Meet and Greet with David Hernandez.
For more details visit www.bisbeepride.com.