Petaluma Pride announces weekend of events
When the first ever Petaluma Pride festival took place last October, organizers weren’t what to expect or how many people to count on showing up. Apparently, those cautious expectations were more than exceeded, because this year Petaluma Pride is expanding to three days, beginning with a dance party on Friday, Oct. 13 and concluding with a casual morning brunch on Sunday, Oct. 15.
“Last year was quite successful, even better than we had hoped,” said Hanan Huneidi, founder and president of Petaluma Pride, and the entertainment and venue coordinator for this year’s festival. “The community was very supportive, and we were grateful for the positive response.”
Huneidi founded the all-volunteer Petaluma Pride in 2019, after noticing that there was nothing in Petaluma acknowledging Pride Month, traditionally observed in June. A former Petaluma High School special education teacher, and a mother of two, Huneidi said her motivation for starting the group came after posting a question on local social media asking about Petaluma’s lack of Pride Month activities.
“I was very surprised that there were some pretty hateful responses to my post,” Huneidi said. “There was a lot of support as well, which I appreciated. At the time I was just inquiring, and not even proposing have Pride events, but as a teacher and a parent, I realized that it was important for the queer community of Petaluma to have some visibility, especially for youth.”
Huneidi said she’s talked with many LGBTQ youth over the years, and has often heard them say that if only they’d known other kids and adults who are gay, bi or trans, then they’d have had less of a hard time growing up.
“Our community does tend to struggle with a lot with anxiety and depression, a lot of it connected to social acceptance,” she said, “so that’s really the main reason I started this.”
In addition to Huneidi, the other Petaluma Pride board members and Pride Festival teammates are Jennifer Horos (member at large, plus the vendors and sponsors outreach person), Brandon Allen (member at large and volunteer coordinator) and Joshua Simmons (vice president and Treasurer; communications and accounts receivable).
According to Huneidi, after establishing, with last year’s events, what the Petaluma Pride Festival could be, the community has come on board for this year’s event in a big way.
“We’ve more than doubled the number of vendors who will be there, so that’s amazing,” she said. “We have some big name sponsors this year, too, including Lagunitas. Now that people know we’re here, there’s just been a lot more interest. Which is great. Allies are extremely important. We need the allies to help, to show up, to donate and to volunteer.”
The expansion to three days is an ambitious move, with events dovetailing nicely with the neighboring Russian River Pride event taking place on Sunday, October 15. The two separate events were synchronized so that local folks and visitors from out of town can experience two full days of activities in Sonoma County, what Huneidi calls, “One big, happy queer weekend.”
“I will definitely be doing that, heading up to Guerneville after our final event Sunday morning,” she said. “Cleve Jones, who is heading up the Russian River Pride, is such a highly respected person in our community. He worked closely with Harvey Milk, and we’ve been in conversation with him so that we can support each other rather than compete.”
The weekend’s activities in Petaluma will kick off with a Friday night dance party at Flying Cloud Ranch. The shindig is a fundraiser for Positive Images, a Sonoma County nonprofit formed in 1990 to offer weekly support groups, youth leadership development program, mentorship opportunities and more.
“They have been so lovely at Flying Cloud Ranch,” Huneidi said. “We’re pretty stoked. Since it’s Friday the 13th, it’s going to be a costume party, with Halloween decorations. There will be a DJ, probably a few folks in drag, food and beverages. That’s an adult event, 18+, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Just like last year, there will be a Pride March following the festival on Saturday, with participants ending up at Theatre Square for more entertainment. The final event of the night will be a drag and burlesque show at the Big Easy, with performers including Sydni Deveraux, aka “The Golden Glamazon,” a two-time winner at the Burlesque Hall of Fame, and Juliano Wade, originally from Columbia, described as an enchanting performer with many talents, with a background in “fusion, belly dance and heels.”