2021 San Diego Pride parade will be virtual again

For the second year in a row, San Diego Pride will be a mostly virtual event after organizers acknowledged Tuesday that the ongoing COVID-19 crisis does not give it a clear “path to safely produce Pride events at the same immense scale we did prior to the pandemic.”

The annual Pride weekend — normally held in July and highlighted by the parade and festival — is the region’s largest civic event, attracting more than 350,000 annually with an economic impact of $26.6 million.

Last April, a month after the pandemic began, San Diego Pride announced it would cancel the summer tradition due to a statewide prohibition on large gatherings to curb the spread of COVID-19. It changed course a month later when it announced it would instead mount an eight-day virtual Pride celebration that would culminate with a virtual parade.

This year, the streamed Pride parade — dubbed Pride Live — will be held July 17 in conjunction with “smaller, COVID-19 compliant and scalable in-person satellite events across San Diego County,” according to a statement from San Diego Pride, which said specifics surrounding in-person events will be announced in early June.

On Tuesday, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said he supported the decision.

“I appreciate San Diego Pride’s resiliency and adaptability in this moment. It is a testament to the strength of our LGBTQ+ community that even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, we can still find ways to be proud and celebrate each other,” he said in a statement.

This year’s eight-day Pride will begin on July 10 with the annual She Fest and will continue through July 18 with several events, including the Spirit of Stonewall Rally and the Virtual Pride 5K.

San Diego Pride is normally one of the region’s most anticipated events, attracting hundreds of thousands of people during San Diego’s busiest tourism month, with Comic-Con International held a week later. Comic-Con — which last year canceled the in-person convention and instead held a virtual event — announced last week it would hold a three-day in-person gathering Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 26-28.

“I support Pride’s difficult decision to modify this year’s festival in the interest of public safety,” said Nathan Fletcher, chair of the county Board of Supervisors. “I know how much our community, myself included, look forward to it every year. I am excited for next year when we can all gather together in-person again — there will be even more to celebrate.”

In making its announcement Tuesday, San Diego Pride said that “this measured approach to reopening allows us and our over 500 partner groups, companies and institutions to adjust to the changing guidelines and public health status in ways that feel best and safest to them while still celebrating Pride.”

Fernando Z. López, San Diego Pride’s executive director, expressed gratitude Tuesday for the community’s support: “I am forever grateful to each and every volunteer, donor, staff and board member, elected official, community member, small business and sponsor who not only stayed with us but actually leaned in and stepped up their support during the most challenging and traumatic years in generations….

“San Diego Pride, each of us, and all of humanity need to heal from the toll COVID-19 has taken on all of us. That will take time. While I know that this year’s Pride events may again look different, next year’s Pride will be a massive unforgettable celebration.”

Rocha writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.