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Pride festival brings the heat to Laguna Beach

Jun 29, 2023Jun 29, 2023

Laguna Beach Pride 365 brought the glitz and the glam to the coast this weekend, as the organization hosted its Pride festival at Lang Park on Saturday.

Hundreds made their way to the event, held on the grass field overlooking the Pacific. Organizers were hoping that scheduling around well-known pride events would bring in a large crowd.

“Last year, we had our pride event in August,” Craig Cooley, president of Laguna Beach Pride 365 said. “What happens is there’s all the big events that go on, and a lot of them, they try to have during Pride Month. Long Beach just had theirs this last week, but most of them have them during Pride Month [June]. … We put ours in August, which is kind of closer to the end of the summer. It works well for us. I wouldn’t call it late. I’d just say it’s planned. It’s not such a highly compressed time with so many other events going on that we get ignored. That’s the strategy.”

Cooley said the festival saw approximately 775 attendees, the majority of which he said came from nearby communities.

The seven-hour extravaganza saw a bounty of live entertainment. DJ Eduardo OMG dropped some beats, and then drag queens Cucu Chanel and Klassy Jean Kouture were tasked with getting the party started.

Jackette Knightley emceed the festival, which also featured performances by Corday and KingQueen.

Cucu Chanel incorporated a chair into their act, dancing around it and eventually tossing it off the left side of the stage.

“I like to do emotions with my performances,” Cucu Chanel said. “I’m not really into like doing flips and stuff, mostly because my body can’t. I like to deliver emotion.”

After completing the opening act, Cucu Chanel went out into the crowd and recorded bits of Klassy Jean Kouture’s performance. The dance-heavy session worked the crowd, breaking the ice and energizing the audience.

“They weren’t getting close,” Klassy Jean Kouture said. “I wanted to just make them feel welcomed as much as I could by going up to them and just smiling and giving them my best, like I usually do. Just making them feel welcomed, hoping that they are feeling welcomed, and kind of laughing and playing with them in the midst of my performance.”

Several vendors lined the grounds, including a booth for the Laguna Beach Police Department set up near the entrance. Officers handed out floral leis and educated the public on knowing their limits when consuming alcohol.

Radiant Health Centers, a group that provides medical services to the LGBTQ+ community, offered on-site HIV testing. Miguel Barragan, a PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) navigator, said three attendees opted to get tested during their appearance at the festival.

“I think it just has to do with … the demographic that was in the area,” Barragan said of the amount of tests administered. “For example, Orange County Pride, we were able to successfully test 36 people. That is a larger event, but also, you have to take into consideration the people that attended that event were a lot younger. We obviously had more people there, and then you have to think about people’s insurance status because the test is free.”

Additional booths were set up by the LGBTQ Center OC and the Resurrection Beach Metropolitan Community Church, a church in Costa Mesa founded by members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The festival also included a bar, a handful of games testing one’s precision and reaction time, and a 360-degree photo experience. A large color banner was draped over a fence at the top of a grassy knoll, providing for another photo opportunity.

Cooley noted that through a combination of admission and drink sales, donations and sponsors, Laguna Beach Pride 365 was able to recover the cost of putting on the event.