Albert H. Fulcher | Editor
Celebrating its twelfth year of reveling San Diego South Bay’s diversity, this year’s South Bay Pride Art and Musical Festival once again embraces this melting pot region at Bayside Park in Chula Vista on Sept. 14. With a bay breeze, live music, food, drinks, artisans and exhibitors, South Bay Pride has grown exponentially. Beginning with its small picnic styled gathering in 2007 attracting around 200 at Memorial Park in downtown Chula Vista, last year, more than 7,000 attended the art festival last year by the bay.
With a great line up of musical entertainment, this year’s South Bay Pride is emceed by Regina Styles, with the San Diego Kings Club entertaining the crowd between this year’s lineup. With a combination of previous year’s favorites, The Social Animal, Unsteady, and Ingénue, newcomers Santana Soul, Open Arms, Ryan Cassata, and The Guest Room are an addition to this year’s musical list.
Mishelle Banaga, entertainment coordinator for South Bay Pride said she is excited in bringing in new talent this year. Founder and lead guitar player for Ingénue, Banaga called herself the “baby of South Bay Pride,” with her beginnings with the organization in 2017.
At a South Bay Pride fundraiser on Aug. 24, Ingénue and The Social Animal, rocked Gossip Grill in effort to keep this annual event free to anyone who wants to attend. Being the third year Ingénue is playing at the festival, Banaga said more than anything she is excited to play.
“We love playing good music and our original music along with our playlist of songs,” Banaga said. “We play purposeful songs that are LGBTQ related and have a message like ‘We Are Family’ and ‘Born This Way,’ by Lady Gaga, that’s a popular one. ‘What’s Up?’ is political. Our song ‘Rise U’” is very political which we wrote because of what’s happening in America today with our government.”
As the former lead guitar player for The Social Animal, Banaga said she played at the festival many times before, starting the band with Joshua Napier and playing for LGBTQ fundraisers for many years. “Our favorite place to play, and still is, South Bay Pride,” she said.
“Because I live in South Bay, it means a lot to me to be able to support my community and bring awareness to the community,” Banaga said. “I think one of the absurdities about the LGBTQ community is that they all live in Hillcrest. And I’m here (Chula Vista) raising a 20-year-old who is nonbinary. The reason I chose to live in Otay Ranch is because of its diversity. I saw the community not just predominantly white, Hispanic, Filipino or predominately African American. It was a diverse mixture of everything. I was very concerned about that at that time in 2001 when I was looking to buy my house.”
She bought the house and said her son was able to go to great schools and that with her partner at the time, made it clear that they were raising their son together as two women.
“Never once, had he been bullied, harassed, or beat up. In fact, what I was told it made him a little bit more popular because he had two moms,” Banaga said.
“That’s why it is so important for me not only to be involved in this community, but also the music in this community,” Banaga continued. “It’s who I am in my soul to be a musician and I also want to bring awareness to all communities again, that the LGBTQ community is everywhere. It is all across this country and it is all across the world. As we see, every year in June and July, for the whole two months, nothing but parade after parade after parade.”
Dae Elliott, former executive director of South Bay Pride said that Chula Vista has moved forward each year with better support with a lot of effort seen over the last couple of years.
“Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas and Council member Steve Padilla are our main sources, but we also have the support of the vast majority of the city council,” Elliott said. “Their raising of the flag during July for San Diego Pride as well as our recent proclamation making Sept. 14 Chula Vista Pride Day are examples of their support. They also sponsor us and promote through their own media.”
Elliott said that most Pride events are free although this can be challenging. The reasoning is that it is both an event where the LGBTQ population and their allies can celebrate, but also an outreach event.
“In particular, the board feels it needs to be as accessible as possible for our youth,” Elliott said. “Having a Pride event in their own backyard has an emotional impact on many of the attendees. The board would hate that the festival would have to turn them away due to charging a fee. We are also only a festival without the expense of a parade like San Diego Pride. Their parade serves as the outreach and is free to attendees. Our festival serves that purpose and South Bay Pride hopes to maintain this openness as it is a major component to a community pride event for building community and promoting inclusion.”
“We would hope the whole community turns out to enjoy a day on the bay with wonderful music, fantastic food and beverage along with great vendor, exhibitors and artisans to check out. Show your support,” Elliott aid.
Sister Ida began working with South Bay Pride in 2009 after becoming a fully professed member of the San Diego Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
“I am often asked questions about why this or that group is important,” said Sister Ida. “Many groups have their importance to a select group, demographic or region in which they exist. South Bay Pride stands out for me as a needed event in the South Bay communities as it is an event which like so many other events are about the South Bay and trans-border region that includes our neighboring city Tijuana to the South. The South Bay communities take great pride being connected with the border region. So many have families on both sides of the US/Mexico border.”
Being the first of the San Diego order to attend Pride in South Bay, Sister Ida said he fell in love with the feel of a free event with the community as its focus.
“Chula Vista, San Ysidro, Imperial Beach, Otay Mesa and the other communities that make up South Bay have this event to enjoy as a showcase of how accepting the communities are,” said Sister Ida. “The South Bay Alliance, which puts on this Art and Music festival also highlights, not just the pride that the people in south bay have for each of the cities that make up South Bay, but the growing number of LGBTQ+ owned and LGBTQ+ friendly businesses in this part of the county. When I first saw, then met the Sisters back in 2007, I saw the energy that Sisters bring and the visage we have that breaks down barriers to conversations that lead to a greater understanding of our diverse cultures throughout this great city and county of San Diego.”
Banaga said that she is excited with the new talent this year at the festival.
“The Guest Room is a new band that has only been out for about a year and a half, but they are already leaps and bounds ahead of a lot of bands,” Banaga said. “They already played the Del Mar Fair, doing the Battle of the Bands and did really well. Their sound is very millennial. I love their music. They bring diversity because as far as I know there is nobody in the band that is LGBTQ, so they are coming to support the LGBTQ community. Which I love and that was my goal this year.”
Banaga said she feels the same with Ryan Cassata, a very well-known transgender singer/songwriter.
“I’m excited that he is representing the transgender community with his music and his experience as a transgender male,” she said.
The music part of the festival will close out with the bands Santana Soul and Open Arms. Banaga said she brought these two band in specifically because they are LGBTQ community allies.
“There are no LGBTQ members in either band that I am aware of. They were so excited to be a part of this and jumped on it when I called them. There was no hesitation whatsoever,” she said.
When playing with The Social Animal, they opened for Open Arms. Banaga said that Tee Hensley, the lead singer, is phenomenal as Steve Perry. She hits the notes, she sounds like him more than any other cover bands that try to cover him. It’s really a tough job to get those vocals,” Banaga said. “She brings justice to all of their songs. I knew that bringing Open Arms in, that everyone would know the words, even the young kids, many of them will know the songs that they will be performing. We are going to appease all ages.”
Santana Soul is the same, she continued. Most people know Santana. Maybe they won’t know all of the songs, but she said at the end of the day, it is amazing music.
“Jim Ybarra does a great job with that band. They always put on a great show,” Banaga said. “It’s going to be a great show and it is going to say a lot that we are bringing such a diversity to the festival. Some people tell me that only gay people go to the Pride festivals. There are over 300,000 people that go to the San Diego Gay Pride Festival and this year was probably the biggest. There are probably not 300,000 people that are gay in Hillcrest or even in central San Diego. That parade and festival is not just comprised of gay people.”
Banaga said that she hopes everybody in San Diego comes to South Bay Pride to see what a beautiful event it is, right on the waterfront in Chula Vista, which a lot of people aren’t even aware that it exists.
“It’s the one place in San Diego where you can actually have a cocktail, listen to great music and walk around freely without being in some kind of cage or beer garden,” Banaga said. “This is a very open area with amazing views with music, food, and artists. The artisans that come with art, jewelry and much more and it is always fantastic.”
- 12 p.m. The Guest Room
- 1 p.m. Ryan Cassata
- 2 p.m. The Social Animal
- 3 p.m. Unsteady
- 4 p.m. Ingenue
- 5 p.m. Santana Soul (Santana Tribute band)
- 6 p.m. Open Arms (Journey Tribute band)
South Bay Pride Art & Music Festival
Bayside Park, Chula Vista
Sept. 14, 12-7 p.m.
For more information visit SouthBayPride.org
South Bay Pride fundraiser at the Gossip Grill
—Albert Fulcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.