30th Sacramento Pride Festival caters to families

The 30th Sacramento Pride Festival filled Capitol Mall on Saturday with cheer teams, slam poets, dance groups and the Girl Scouts Rainbow Troop. Families and couples enjoyed free wine, food trucks and snow cones.

Even churches and banks got in on the action, manning booths to offer candy and giveaways.

The annual event, featuring a parade in the morning and performers throughout the afternoon, is the largest community outreach project of the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, which serves lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents. For the first time in 2014, the festival filled four full blocks on Capitol Mall with vendors and 575 volunteers, said LGBT Community Center President David Heitstuman. He expected attendance would increase from last year’s 10,000 visitors.

To Heitstuman, the festival’s location, just feet from the seat of political power in the Golden State, is crucial.

“I think being in the shadows of the Capitol is a really fantastic thing,” Heitstuman said. “We get our state and local elected officials marching alongside us.”

Inga Olson marched in the parade to represent Service Employees International Union Local 1000’s Lavender Committee, the LGBT branch of California’s largest state worker union. Olson has attended Sacramento Pride for a decade, and she said she noticed a greater number of families with children this time around. She views that change as a sign of greater openness and confidence among families with same-sex or transgender parents.

The Girl Scouts Rainbow Troop was selling cookies at a booth in the middle of the mall. The newly formed troop includes girls from LGBT families and is sponsored by the LGBT Community Center.

Meredith Stapleton, 26, attended with her boyfriend and two young children. Stapleton said it’s important to her that her kids learn to be open-minded and tolerant, and she thinks events like Pride contribute to that.

“We need to make sure that when you see someone different from you, you don’t feel scared,” Stapleton said.

Not everyone was thrilled with the festival’s family-friendly vibe.

Butte College students Mariah Foster, 19, and Joe Hammer, 21 made the two-hour drive from Chico on their day off. Hammer has previously attended San Francisco Pride, the largest such festival in the country.

“This is a little boring, to be honest,” Hammer said. “I was expecting more dancing.”

Though not enough to satisfy Hammer, there was dancing at Sacramento Pride. Two stages offered entertainment, including performances by three adult cheer teams and Q-Rated Dance Company, a Latin and ballroom dance group mostly composed of LGBT people. SideTrax nightclub blasted music into a tent that filled with attendees dancing with varying degrees of grace. Kenny the Dancing Man, a mainstay of Concerts in the Park, shimmied to Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love.”

Heitstuman said he was pleased that the crowd reflected the River City’s diversity.

“This is an opportunity for us to bring everyone in the community together to share resources and information,” Heitstuman said.