By Jeremy Spitz & Nicole Dial
City News Editor, City News Reporter

Radical faeries, activist cheerleaders and drag queens in limousines. There are usually some colorful characters on Pacific Avenue, but last Sunday was particularly rainbow.

The 34th annual Santa Cruz Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Parade and Festival drew thousands of people to downtown Santa Cruz. Marchers paraded down Pacific to San Lorenzo Park for fun, food and live music. Everyone embraced this year’s theme: “Live – Love – Be, Shake it Up!”

The event has been hosted by the Santa Cruz Diversity Center for 19 years. Jim Brown, the executive director of the center and festival organizer, said that this year’s festival had a special air of celebration.

“Especially now, with the Supreme Court decision, we can celebrate who we are as a community and show everyone how fabulous we are,” Brown said. “We may be a little brighter at times, but we’re just like everybody else.”

The California Supreme Court voted on May 15 to overturn a ban on same-sex marriage. The crowd on Sunday rejoiced with many supporters waving signs proclaiming their intention to take advantage of the ruling when it goes into effect later this month.

One thing that set Santa Cruz Pride apart is support from the local religious community.

“More and more churches are attending,” Brown said. “We have an incredibly supportive church community.”

Inner Light Ministries in Soquel and the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Santa Cruz helped co-sponsor the event, along with Temple Beth El in Aptos.

Rev. Dave Dodson of the First Congregational Church marched and also held a service at the park. He said that he hopes more religious organizations will follow Santa Cruz’s lead.

“I hope that more people will separate church and hate,” Dodson said. “God loves everyone and it’s important to celebrate gay and lesbian marriages. This church is an active supporter of LGBT communities, and is open and affirming.”

There was also a large turnout from other spiritual groups. The Radical Faeries, a neo-pagan queer spiritual group, had one of the most vibrant contingents. They danced down the avenue with bright streamers on tall sticks that floated like jellyfish above their scantily clad bodies.

One member, who called himself Cayenne, was dressed in a white kimono with streamer-like wings.

“Radical faeries are an international tribe of people who consider themselves alternative to the mundane and everyday,” Cayenne said.

The faeries joined with dozens of other diversity groups including the Santa Cruz AIDS project, the Diversity Partnership Fund and the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana in the march to the park. Like any good parade, Sunday’s pace was set by cheerleaders.

Cheer SF is a San Francisco-based performance troupe that travels around the state to raise money for people living with HIV, AIDS, cancer and other chronic illnesses.

This is Cheer SF’s 17th year at Santa Cruz Pride. This year the group hoped to raise $2,000 for the Diversity Center.

Sanford Smith, a nine-year veteran of the troupe and vice president of public relations, said that the group always looks forward to coming to the festival.

“Santa Cruz Pride always kicks off our pride season, so it’s always an uplifting, fun thing,” he said. “We just really, really love being here.”