Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

SJ Pride cut to one day for 2012


Dancers strut in heels on stage at San Jose Pride. (Photo: Jo-Lynn Otto)
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San Jose's LGBT Pride celebration will be a Saturday-only event in 2012. The festival's board decided to cut what had been a two-day celebration after disappointing attendance numbers this summer. Next year's Pride will be Saturday, August 18.

In addition to drawing fewer people to the second day of this year's event, the organization, formally known as the Gay Pride Celebration Committee of San Jose Inc. continues to run a deficit, even though it had a surplus this year.

Board member Ray Mueller said the board felt "this was a successful event."

Mueller, who joined Pride earlier this year as sponsorship chair, said for 2011 alone, San Jose Pride had a surplus of $20,000. However, "Despite aggressive fundraising and cost cutting measures, the Pride festival, for the fourth year, was in debt," he said. The overall projected deficit is about $17,000.

Mueller said that attendance at the second day of this year's festival – Sunday, August 21 – was down by 800 people to 3,100 compared to last year.

He cited the recession as one reason for the lower attendance. However, he said Santa Clara County has over 1.7 million people, "and if the people that are here do not wish to support the local organization, then it's time to consider whether it's really worth the time and effort."

Mueller said a day was cut from the celebration because "Our perception is the community doesn't necessarily find two days useful." He added that this year, "If we'd had all the people on one day, I think it would have been a much better festival."

As in 2010, there was no parade this year. Also, a past participant was absent.

"We heard a lot of commentary on 'Where's the parade?'" Mueller said, as well as a few people wondering where the Latin stage was. Club Papi chose not to participate this year.

San Jose Pride board President Steve Bass sounded even more frustrated than Mueller.

He said board members are all volunteers, and added, "I'm not doing this for me. I'm not getting laid out of this thing. My dick didn't get sucked out of it."

"What does the community really want? If the community doesn't want to support this, then why are we doing it?" he asked.

Ticket prices could be part of Pride's problems. Saturday, August 20, was a free day, but it cost $15 to get in Sunday (those who purchased tickets in advance were able to enter for $10). Saturday attendance for 2011 and 2010 was estimated to be roughly 3,000.

"We do feel we would like to reduce our ticket prices," Mueller said. "However, without that sponsorship support, there's just not a way for us to do that."

San Jose Pride has a budget of $250,000. Mueller said there's been an overall reduction in sponsorships of 60 percent over the last three years.

Date change

Another factor that may have hurt the South Bay city's Pride festival is a date change.

In 2010, Pride's board decided to move the festival from June to August, so as not to compete with other Pride festivals taking place in June.

Mueller has said many people didn't realize the switch had happened, and attendance was down in 2010. It appears that could still be a problem.

He said Pride officials worked hard this year to market the event through videos, Facebook, and events at local bars such as Renegades and Splash.

There has been discussion about moving the celebration back to June, but "the board felt that we needed to truly give August a chance," Mueller said, adding that other cities such as Oakland hold their festivals even later than San Jose.

He addressed some of the other concerns people had about this year's festival. He said the board's committed to bringing the parade back.

Mueller said the board voted through email to have the event on a Saturday in 2012. He said that vote tally was finalized Wednesday, September 28. The vote was 6-2, with two more members not responding. The board decided at its September meeting to restrict the event to one day.

He also said the loss of sponsorship from Club Papi was part of the reason Pride didn't have an international stage this year.

Club Papi owner Jamie Awad said, "We just needed to take a break this year," but he and his troupe, which typically includes scantily clad dancers, look forward to returning in 2012.

San Jose resident Clark Williams said, "I had a great time" at this year's celebration, "and I think anyone who attended Pride this year had a really good time." He said that he was "happy to hear" Pride's board has been working to make the event fiscally responsible, and they "should be examining ways to reduce costs and make the event even better."

One cost that might be reduced is what San Jose Pride spends on the festival director. The board has put out a request for proposal for that contract.

Mueller said that position is their biggest individual cost. Longtime director Gary Walker, whose contract was for $20,000 this year, didn't respond to an interview request for this story. He's previously said that amount included what was paid to him and others. Mueller indicated Walker would be able to bid for the position.

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