This year’s Phoenix Pride has special meaning.
The festival—set for Saturday, April 4, and Sunday, April 5, at Steele Indian School Park—will celebrate its 40th year and the $1 million it has given back to the community through grants and scholarships.
“We’re trying to get the message out that Phoenix Pride is more than just a festival,” says Mike Fornelli, Phoenix Pride executive director since January 1, 2018. Prior to that, he was on the board.
“It’s actually a foundation that does things year long.”
In mid-February, Fornelli was in the throes of planning the 2020 event. The Phoenix Pride Festival will feature six performance stages with 150 shows.
Performers include Neon Trees (“Everybody Talks,” “Sleeping with a Friend”), R&B singer Melanie Fiona, singer Deborah Cox and drag queen Jessica Wild. The Latin stage will feature Sonora Tropicana, Los Horscopos de Durango and headliner Maribel Gaurdia.
The festival also offers 180 exhibitors in the marketplace, a dance pavilion, and food and drink.
“We really wanted to be more inclusive in our entertainment,” Fornelli says. “I feel it’s important to have and support LGBT artists.”
Each stage has a sign-language interpreter, thanks to Phoenix Pride’s accessibility manager, who guides the team.
“We are very cognizant that everyone who shows up is going to enjoy themselves equally,” Fornelli says. “That’s what a lot of festivals don’t do or don’t think about, which is really important.”
This year’s VIP area will be near the lake, while the former location will feature a bar in front of the main stage access.
On Saturday night, Phoenix Pride will host an official afterparty.
Fornelli’s favorite part about the festival is seeing everyone happily being themselves.
“The festival is a place where people within the community feel safe and can be their authentic selves without being judged and without worrying about being harassed,” Fornelli says.
Sunday marks the Phoenix Pride Parade, which attracts between 15,000 and 16,000 people.
“I love when everyone starts to show up in the morning and the excitement before the party starts,” Fornelli says.
Nearly 4,500 participants from the 300 parade entries walk/ride in the Bank of America-presented parade. The grand marshals will be past board members of the organization.
“I feel it’s important to remember where Phoenix Pride came from and who the people were who helped build it to what it is today, so including them is really important,” Fornelli says.
The Phoenix Pride Parade begins at Third Street and Thomas Road and ends at the festival’s entrance at Steele Indian School Park.
The 31-year owner of the Scottsdale gay bar BS West, Fornelli is proud of the work he has done with Pride.
“Obviously for 31 years I was part of the community, but this job allows me to be way more involved in the community,” Fornelli says. “My favorite part about it is being able to help make change.”
Phoenix Pride Festival
Steele Indian School Park, 300 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, 602.277.7433, phoenixpride.org, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, April 4, and Sunday, April 5, tickets start at $30, VIP tickets available.