SF Pride launches first Kickoff Celebration and calls for needed funds to cover this year's costs

SF Pride held its inaugural Pride Kickoff Celebration at the Castro Theatre Friday night, featuring performances by LGBTQ artists.

The Ensamble Folclórico Colibrí was the opening act at the event, which drew hundreds of people to the heart of the Castro.

Financial challenges, however, are looming for SF Pride which coordinates events and organizes the world-renowned Pride Parade.

SF Pride is feeling the pain of shrinking corporate budgets and rising costs.

"It's been very difficult. We didn't have any revenue during the pandemic years and so people have been amazing, corporate partners, the city has helped us but it's not enough to keep up with the escalating costs," said Suzanne Ford, executive director of SF Pride.

Ford says those rising costs include essential health insurance, medical services and security for the Parade weekend that cannot be cut.

"We need help. We need help from the city government, we need help from corporations, and we need more individuals to step forward and come to events like this," Ford said. "You can't take for granted that it's just going to happen every year. That's not how it works."

SF Pride says the parade and celebrations are worth the investment and hopes people will donate.

Ford says the month of celebrations brings tourists and their dollars to the city.

"Back in 2016 they thought around $350 million, and I can tell you it's easily $700-800 million, the revenue that goes into the community," Ford said.

For many businesses, those Pride dollars are a welcome economic lifeline as they climb out of the pandemic.

At Chadwick's take-out restaurant on Market Street, staff say they're already seeing Pride tourists from around the world.

"The fact that Pride is actually back in full force, it's really important for all the businesses. It really does impact us," said Aaron Van Arsdale, general manager at Chadwick's restaurant.

Some say the parade and celebrations also are needed to send a message to the world.

"If you are going to be vicious to us, we will be viciously fabulous right back and prove that you will not erase us," said Nguyen Pham, SF Pride Board President.

Others have traveled from across the globe to stand in solidarity to speak out publicly regarding some of the discrimination they face in their own native countries.

"At this moment of time, I am the first and only publicly-out LGBT person from Qatar," said Dr. Nas Mohamed, Grand Marshal of the SF Pride Parade and founder of a non-profit to help people seek asylum in other nations. "This just speaks volumes [about] San Francisco and San Francisco values. And we are truly a beacon of hope."

Ford says it's important that people invest in pride and don't take the grand parade and celebrations for granted.

She says costs have risen to $3 million for parade weekend this year, so they still need to raise about $500,000 and hope community members and companies can come together to help with the costs.