Thousands of people from San Diego and neighboring counties flocked to downtown Oceanside over the weekend to celebrate love and equality at the 16th annual Pride by the Beach.
Organized by the North County LGBTQ Resource Center, the festival’s mission is to invite locals and visitors alike to feel accepted and safe. As a family-friendly event, Pride by the Beach is alcohol and tobacco-free.
Similar to last year’s numbers, another 20,000 people visited the festival in downtown Oceanside throughout the day on June 3. Prior to pandemic restrictions that forced the festival to go virtual, Pride by the Beach only had about 8,000 visitors.
“We weren’t sure if last year’s numbers were because of Covid restrictions during the previous two years and everyone was just itching to get out, but this year’s numbers proved that the festival continues to grow,” said Roxanne Deatherage, director of Pride by the Beach.
This year’s theme was “Free to Be Me in 2023,” highlighting the significance of what it means for each person to express themselves freely during a time when animosity toward the LGBTQ community is intensifying.
Last month, the Department of Homeland Security declared that threats against the LGBTQ community were on the rise throughout the country. According to the DHS document, which was distributed to government and law enforcement agencies alike, domestic violence extremists and those who commit hate crimes have increased threats of violence against the LGBTQ community within the last year.
In late March, the FBI’s Terrorism Unit was investigating a “threat of undisclosed violence” on social media toward a drag show event at Belly Up in Solana Beach. The drag show is the largest annual fundraiser for Pride by the Beach.
The drag show was postponed to late May and the rescheduled show went smoothly, packing the house at the Belly Up.
No problems, altercations or negative encounters were reported at this year’s Pride by the Beach, Deatherage said.
“It was the best we could expect,” Deatherage said. “We were worried about everything going on… it really proved that love wins and that our community comes together to celebrate.”
The festival featured live music, a dance floor and 134 vendors selling goods and food and providing information about their respective organizations.
Deatherage said the Tuesday following Pride by the Beach is always busy for the resource center because of how many people begin to reach out after finding out what the center has to offer.
“Our phones will not stop ringing,” she said.
The North County LGBTQ Resource Center offers support groups for youth, seniors and military service members, HIV/AIDS testing and prevention, counseling, civil rights advocacy, classes and workgroups.
The resource center will participate in Pride Month proclamations with local City Councils throughout June and plans to support San Diego’s Pride Festival held in July each year. Other events will be held throughout the year, including the center’s annual gala on Oct. 7 at the El Corazon Senior Center, pumpkin decorating and another drag show sometime in November.
Deatherage, completing her first year as director of Pride by the Beach, also wants to hold more pride events throughout the year leading up to next year’s Oceanside festival.