The History of Orange County LGBT Pride
It was the summer of 1989. The last summer of the 80s. The original Batman was in theaters, Paula Abdul was on the radio, George Michael was on tour and a small group of attendees gathered in Santa Ana for the first “Orange County Pride Cultural Festival.”
The first OC Pride incited a clash between attendees and anti-LGBTQ protestors that forced law enforcement to order OC Pride organizers to lock the festival gates temporarily as they considered shutting down the event entirely. OC Pride attendees waited – caged in and locked up – until authorities deemed it safe to let the pride festival continue.
The following year, OC Pride moved to the University of California, Irvine campus, where it remained until the early 2000's, when the original OC Pride organization was dissolved and the festival went dark.
In 2009, after the passage of California’s Proposition 8 – a ballot proposition and state constitutional amendment created by opponents of same-sex marriage – OC Pride was resurrected and returned with “Picnic in the Park & the Return of Orange County Pride.” Organized by the Orange County Equality Coalition (OCEC), the event welcomed more than 500 people. It unified the LGBT community and gave all those who'd been hurt by Proposition 8 a sense of belonging.
In 2010 and 2011, OC Pride’s “Bustin’ Through the Orange Curtain” festival was held in Irvine, adjacent to the now-shuttered Verizon Amphitheater. OC Pride doubled in size annually. By 2011, the festival hosted more than 3,000 people, a main stage of amazing entertainers and speakers, a non-stop dance tent, a lively kids corner and more than 80 booths and vendors.
In 2012, OC Pride’s “Takin’ It To The Streets” festival marked the return of OC Pride to its birthplace – the streets of downtown Santa Ana. More than 8,000 attendees experienced the festival’s new feel, which also maintained many of the qualities that had made past OC Pride’s events so unique.
In 2013, OC Pride’s “Our Day in the Sun” festival celebrated two watershed U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding the freedom to marry – including the invalidation of Proposition 8. It was also the year when Orange County Pride became a California 501(c)(3) non-profit charity.
In 2014, OC Pride was officially incorporated as Orange County LGBT Pride Inc. Since then, volunteer Officers and Directors have run OC Pride and every dollar raised has gone to charitable causes. The year’s “Pride Is... YOU!” festival celebrated the milestone.
In 2015, OC Pride’s one-day festival grew to an entire week of "Color Our World with Pride" celebrations, events and activities. Following OC Pride’s lead, surrounding pride celebrations began expanding their festivities from one weekend to an entire week.
In 2016, on the heels of the previous year’s success, OC Pride “Live Your Life” festival returned with its now-standard weeklong format and debuted the first-ever OC Pride Parade.
At 23,000, attendance at 2017 OC Pride “As One” festival was record-breaking and included a local family with a 10-year-old gender creative son named C.J. Matt and Lori Duron share their journey raising a non-binary, LGBT child at RaisingMyRainbow.com and on social media. They posted a picture of their family at OC Pride that went viral, with celebrities, politicians, influencers, high-profile organizations and the media arguing for and against supporting LGBT youth.
In 2018, OC Pride welcomed the Duron family back as their son C.J. (at age 11) served as Grand Marshal – making him the youngest Pride Grand Marshal in history. C.J. and his family inspired OC Pride’s 2018 “Be You” theme.
This year, we’re excited to announce OC Pride 2019 to be held on Saturday, June 22, 2019 in Downtown Santa Ana with an expected attendance of over 25,000! Our theme this year is “Stand Up Stand Out.” Inspired by the exciting changes, milestones and accomplishments in the name of LGBT rights, we decided to transform those feelings of admiration, gratitude and happiness into something visual. Something creative. Something colorful. Something that vividly flaunts what it is we all feel inside!