Pride swells in Castro Valley
by Matthew S. Bajko
The inaugural event in 2011, thrown together in a matter of weeks, drew 250 attendees. For the second installment, it had been estimated 500 people might show up.
Now organizers of Castro Valley Pride in the East Bay are bracing for as many as 1,000 people to take part in the LGBT festival this Saturday, July 21. The crowd count from this year will impact what happens in 2013.
"If this one is really well attended, if we get 2,000 people, we could need a larger space next year," said organizer Billy Bradford, adding that the plan for now is to host a third and likely annual Pride event going forward. "We will see how it goes. Right now it is a yes. But we need to see what happens this year."
An unincorporated area of Alameda County, Castro Valley lies south of Lake Chabot against the San Leandro Hills. According to the 2010 census, its population totaled 61,388 people. Same-sex married couples or partners accounted for 1 percent of the 22,348 households in the census area.
On Tuesday, members of the community held a debate on same-sex marriage. Bradford argued in support, along with Dr. Irene Landaw, a local Kaiser pediatrician and the Reverend Arlene Nehring from Eden United Church of Christ. Several years ago, Nehring's appearance at a diversity day on the Castro Valley High campus drew anonymous emails critical of her talk. City residents Stacy Spink, Peter Hauer, and Trinity Bustria argued against marriage equality.
"There are a lot of LGBT families here," said Bradford, 56, a single father whose son is 17 and heading to college in the fall. "It is not like the Castro, obviously."
A 10-year resident of Castro Valley, Bradford works for a law firm in downtown San Francisco. He said there are many gays and lesbians who have jobs in the city but live across the bay due to the cheaper home prices and better schools.
"They are not dykes on bikes. They are not leather men. They are parents who have children and want a good school system and an affordable house," said Bradford, who is an organizer in the Bay Area for both Get Equal and Marriage Equality USA. "Our Pride is not going to be what you might see in San Francisco or Oakland. It is about our community and families. It is a family-oriented event."
It began last year after Bradford met a local high school student who thought Castro Valley should host some sort of Pride rally. The plans quickly grew into an outdoor festival held in a parking lot at Castro Valley High School.
This year a group of high school students and parents have spent the last three months organizing the Pride event with a budget of $3,000. Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, scheduled to speak Saturday afternoon, secured $1,000 in funding, while the rest came from sponsors and the selling of booth space for $50 each.
As of press time Wednesday, July 18 nearly all 50 of the booths had sold out. According to a donation page at http://castrovalleypride.chipin.com/castro-valley-pride-2012 , more than $3,335 had already been raised to cover expenses.
"It is really expensive. Security is expensive and we have to pay for permits," said Bradford. "I don't think people realize how much it costs."
Entertainment includes a Hawaiian dance troupe, a local rapper, and the cast of a local production of the Broadway musical Hairspray. There will be a face painter and balloon artist for kids.
Those expected to join Miley on stage as guest speakers include state Senator Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) and a representative of Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), who represents the area and is vice chair of the congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.
San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy, who helped launch the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry campaign earlier this year, and Hayward City Councilman Bill Quirk, who spoke last year, are also expected to attend.
"They are jumping on board because I think everyone over here realizes there are a lot of LGBT families on this side of the bay," Bradford said of the growing political support for the Pride event. "You go into Hayward, Castro Valley, and San Leandro you will find a lot of LGBT families."
The Pride event, dubbed Rainbow Rally in the Valley, takes place from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday in the senior parking lot on Mabel Street at Castro Valley High School, 19400 Santa Maria Avenue.
Entrance is free but donations of any amount will be accepted and specially designed T-shirts will be on sale for $10. All proceeds will go toward paying for the 2013 event.
For more information visit the event's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/341939409188312/ .