CHICO – The Stonewall Alliance of Chico parking lot filled up on Saturday as the nonprofit celebrated Pride Month with the Pride Pop-Up Fair and Festival.
This year’s event featured vendors, drag performances, and live music. In the past, the event was held at City Plaza, but this year the Stonewall Alliance has chosen to keep things closer to home as the organization begins to return to events in person.
Stonewall Alliance of Chico executive director Andrea Mox said that after failing to host an in-person festival last year, the nonprofit continued to weigh options.
âIn March, we hosted our trans event and a small version of it. We had such a big turnout for that and at that point it was like, ‘OK, looks like we can be safe. So let’s make it happen, âMox said.
Once the Stonewall Alliance started planning, she said the group realized that their parking lot would be able to accommodate a large number of vendors as well as space for performances.
âEveryone is so excited in the community to celebrate and have a great time. We have over 50 vendors here and there is so much going on.
In addition to hosting the fair and festival in a new location, Mox said several vendors are new to the event. This included Butte College which had a booth for recruiting student support prospects.
Other vendors in attendance at Saturday’s 50+ vendor event included Woodstock Pizza, Caring Choices, Gnarly Deli food truck, Faith Lutheran Church, Chico First Baptist, Chico State University and KZFR Community Radio.
Stonewall Alliance event and volunteer coordinator Alyssa Larson said as COVID restrictions began to be lifted and vaccinations rolled out, the nonprofit looked to previous years. to start planning.
âWe started off on the same track as last year, just learning from what went well and what didn’t,â said Larson. âWe kind of realized, ‘Oh, that has to be in person. Oh, that must be in personâ¦. ‘ and so it kind of sprang up under us. Then people and volunteers started pouring in and everyone was like, âCan we be there? All of a sudden we have this.
With the new location this year, Larson said the Stonewall Alliance will continue to take notes on what works and what doesn’t.
âEverything is experimental – we are all learning. We’re going to try to take pieces and people can expect that to keep growing and changing, âLarson said.
Drag and live music performances were also watched by large crowds throughout the day, including music from Scout; Weak dizziness; Radio relapse; and Linda Stonestreet.
Drag artists included Madd Dogg 20/20; Lulu Licious; Klaudia banks; Vincent Van Glowe; Chardonnay Risk; and Selena (Youth).
Stonewall Alliance board chairman Conner Wenzel said being able to get together as a group after more than a year of separation has been a rewarding effort.
âIt’s wonderful because the people who drop off and the people who attend – they all want to reconnect,â Wenzel said. âThe pride event has always been big in Chico, but (people) are like, ‘Whoa, I didn’t know there were so many members of the community. “
Wenzel, who also hosts the Stonewall Alliance teen group, said that for some program attendees, the event marks a special moment.
âEspecially in our community there is a lot of feeling of isolation,â said Wenzel. âThis may be the first time they’ve been close to friends in a big queer space where they can express themselves however they want – they may not have been able to do so in the past. Last 15 months, or whatever the length. “
After spending more than a year connecting virtually, for some teens Saturday’s event was also their first face-to-face encounter.
âIt was difficult because the only connection was virtual,â Wenzel said. “Being in person and realizing that they just blend in and fit in and that there are other people like them – all of these things just make it more comfortable to continue this process.”
For more information on future Stonewall Alliance of Chico events, visit https://www.stonewallchico.com/