Balloon display

First Rainbow Fair celebrates pride in Oakland

In case you missed it, last month’s Splashpad News included an in-depth article by Editor/Publisher Debra Chaplan about Pride Month and the City Council’s approval of an LGBTQ Cultural Zone designation for the area bounded by Lakeshore, Grand, Mandana and LakePark. This month’s follow-up is about the First Annual Rainbow Fair in Splash Pad Park that celebrated that achievement. 


Kudos to the co-founders of Oakland’s LGBTQ Center, CEO Joe Hawkins, COO Dawn Edwards, and Board President Jeff Myers, as well as all the other staff members and volunteers who made this a huge success. The event was incredibly well-done — everything from the stage to security to port-a-potties were top-notch.


Thelma Houston Gettin Down

The main attraction, of course, was the music, with Grammy-Award winner Thelma Houston headlining the event. She didn’t disappoint — commanding the stage like the veteran she is but with the kind of energy seldom seen in folks who are approaching 80. You can see for yourself by clicking on this link to a video we uploaded to YouTube.


Another highlight was the aptly-named Drag Queen, Vicky Sparkle-Titz. Click on their name for an 8-second “tit-bit” (sorry I couldn’t resist)!


Others on stage included Thea Austin, flautist  Kimberly (KJ) Jackson, Council President Nikki Bas, and four DJs. 


Another big attraction was the play area where kids could create massive bubbles, do artwork, or get their face painted by AnnieBCreationz. This area was organized and supervised by the Center’s Youth Services Director, Lasandra Wells.


Non-profits providing services to the LGBTQ community were well represented beginning with a booth for the Center itself adjacent to one for the Glenn Burke Wellness Clinic. The latter provides services that are free or covered by one’s medical provider thanks to “a unique collaboration between the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center & LifeLong Medical Care.”


The East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club was represented by its President, Matt Lardner and Board Member Jennifer Tran.


Other non-profits included HEPPAC, Oakland Black Pride, and Lavender Seniors of the East Bay which was appropriately situated next to the Lavender Lounge.


Man in pride costume

Juan Davila, a volunteer for the San Francisco Bay Times won the Best-Dressed award with an outfit that he fashioned himself.


There were also half a dozen vendors including Bayside Fresh Juice and My Territory — which featured a wonderful selection of stickers by owner, Tori Howard.


We’d be remiss if we didn’t also acknowledge the efforts that went into making the park as safe and attractive as possible prior to the event. That would include the Public Works Department with a special shout-out to Martin Tovar who got the decking repaired, Gardener Christian Boyle who’s always there when needed, and Taurus Ringold who maintains the fountain. Mary Jo Sutton’s volunteer team worked overtime to get the Native Garden weeded and planted and on the Friday before the event, Farmers Market Manager Mahader Tesfai and two staff members showed up to pressure-wash the plaza.

Thanks to everyone involved. We’re already looking forward to Rainbow Fair 2 next year.


By Ken Katz

Ken Katz

Ken Katz founded the Splash Pad Neighborhood Forum in late 1999 and, in his role as Chair, coordinated the community efforts to lobby for a new park and subsequently served as a liaison to the City of Oakland and to Walter Hood’s office during the planning process. The first Splashpad Newsletters were emailed beginning circa 2006. He currently contributes to the monthly Splashpad News.


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