The celebration of pride in Silicon Valley can be characterized as a series of struggles and triumphs. Whether it was presiding over one the largest pride events in between San Francisco and Los Angeles to staving-off bankruptcy and uneven organization, Pride in Silicon Valley has persevered and evolved into a wondrous event that the LGBTQ community eagerly awaits every year.
The Gay Student Union was able to organize the first pride event in Silicon Valley. The main event began at 9:30 am, with other events held in various parts of the SJSU campus. Workshops included bisexuality, drag, couples, legal rights, religion, and sadomasochism. The day was closed with a potluck dinner and dance at the Student Union Ballroom.
St. James Park (1976-1980)
Sponsored by the Lambda Association, the first Gay Freedom Rally and Dance was held downtown at St. James Park. More than 300 people attended, and it was considered a small but strong showing for Silicon Valley’s first official pride event. Guests included Harvey Milk, who was a speaker in 1978. This would be come to the location for pride for the next four years.
City Park Plaza (1981-1982)
The Lambda Association moved its Gay Freedom Rally to City Park Plaza (now known as Plaza de Cesar Chavez) on San Carlos and Market Streets.
St. James Park (1983-1985)
Renamed Gay Pride Celebration in 1983, the organizers returned the festival to St. James Park. By then, there were more gay businesses and organizations participating than ever before.
5,000 people participated in 1985, marking a huge milestone for Pride and the LGBTQ community in Silicon Valley.
SJSU Athletic Fields (1986)
Due to redevelopment efforts at St. James Park, San Jose Pride moved to the SJSU Athletic Fields on 10th and Alma. Attendance remained stable, despite the financial constraints and a venue change.
Santa Clara County Fairgrounds (1987-1993)
After 1986, the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds was chosen as a less expensive alternative to St. James Park, one that also allowed for more flexibility with vendors and better accessibility to facilities. Though Pride had been cast out of downtown, festivities and attendance continued to grow each year.
The Alameda Pride and Parade (1993)
While the location of Pride at The Alameda was brief, it drew a great deal more attention and recognition than it had in the past. Mayor Susan Hammer was named one of the grand marshals, the first time a San Jose mayor participated in Pride. With 10,000 people attending, Pride became far more than a niche event for the local LGBTQ community.
Stockton Strip (1994)
Despite the previous year’s success, Pride was endangered. The Gay Pride Celebration had lost thousands of dollars the previous year. In an effort to preserve its momentum, Stockton Avenue was chosen as a cost-effective way of organizing gay businesses and activities in a central area. While there was a significant decrease in attendance (only about 2,000 per day), Stockton Avenue kept Pride alive in Silicon Valley.
Discovery Meadow (1995-2014)
The move to Discovery Meadow in 1995 ushered in a more stable and organized era of Pride in San Jose. Attendance broke a new record with 12,000 attendees. Five years later it reached 20,000. Additionally, the appearance of high-profile individuals, including drag superstar RuPaul in 1998, offered even more reasons for people to participate in Pride. Discovery Meadow remained Pride’s home for several years. In 2014, San Jose Pride was renamed Silicon Valley Pride to be more inclusive of neighboring communities.
Park Avenue and Almaden Boulevard (2015-2016)
Under new chair Thaddeus Campbell, Silicon Valley Pride had its first parade event in years. This new parade also coincided with a new event location on Park Avenue and Almaden Boulevard. In 2016, the organization launched the first Saturday Night Festival.
Plaza de Cesar Chavez (2017-2019, 2021-present)
After successfully restarting Pride with a new parade and location, along with unloading the troublesome debt accrued in previous years, Thaddeus Campbell oversaw Silicon Valley Pride’s move back to Plaza de Cesar Chavez. Because Pride tends to be majority male driven events, in 2018 the organization launched HEY GIRL, a queer female identified group under Silicon Valley Pride umbrella started by Liz Asborno and Nicole Altamirano, as well as the first Trans and Friends Rally and a Drag Queen Cooking Showdown. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Silicon Valley Pride debuted a virtual celebration of Pride in 2020. Community members were invited to submit videos of their art, dance, or a simple greeting to commemorate Pride. In 2021, it resumed in-person celebrations at the plaza.
Stockton Avenue Parade (1991-1992)
Heralded as the first pride parade in the South Bay, the 1991 San Jose Gay Pride Parade marked the first in many efforts in heightening the visibility of the LGBTQ community. The parade was on Stockton Avenue, going from Taylor Street to the Alameda, and concluded at the Billy DeFrank Center. Stockon Avenue was a prime location for the parade, largely owing to the Stockton Strip and its gay clubs and businesses.
Market Street Parade (1995-2009, 2015-2019, 2021-present)
After the move of the Gay Pride Celebration to Discovery Park, the parade was able to resume in 1995. The new downtown route was along Market Street, beginning at St. James Street and ending at Park Avenue. Attendance was consistent, with parade having an uninterrupted 14-year streak. Unfortunately, in 2009, the recession had hit organizers deeply, leading to an end of the parade. In 2015, after rebranding itself as Silicon Valley Pride, the parade made a successful comeback along its regular route on Market Street. After being postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the parade resumed on Market Street in 2021, where it continues to channel the spirit and resilience of Silicon Valley’s LGBTQ+ community.
Pride names by year:
- 1976 Gay Freedom Rally and Dance
- 1982 San Jose Gay Pride Rally
- 1983 San Jose Gay Pride Celebration
- 1991 San Jose Gay Pride and Parade
- 2014 Silicon Valley Pride
From 1988 to 1993, Whayne Herriford was apart of the Board of Directors of the Gay Pride Celebration Committee of San Jose. With the emergence of political support from elected officials in 1989 and the debut of first pride parade in 1991, pride became more and more important to the local community in San Jose and the rest of Silicon Valley.