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Napa shows its LGBTQ pride


With events ranging from Big Gay Trivia Night to Big Gay Golf to the Dinner and Drag Show, and 19 other events – Pride in Napa has officially arrived. Chef’s Market is the weekly party Napa throws for its locals. This week, it comes with a twist – there are rainbow flags lining up and down the city light posts, proudly announcing “Do Pride.” Booths proclaiming LGBTQ organizations and clubs, and queer couples holding hands while experiencing the live music and fresh food, in what was once a very quiet homophobic country town. KALW’s Teddy Lederer was at the event and brought back these perspectives from the crowd.

MAYOR JILL TECHEL: My name is Jill Techel. I’m the mayor of the city of Napa. The city does “Do Napa.” So it’s “Do Downtown” and “Do Restaurants” and “Do Tasting Rooms” – and now it’s “Do Pride.”

IAN STANLEY: My name is Ian Stanley and I’m the program director for the LGBTQ Connection in Napa. We’ve been having Pride in Napa for about 11 years now.

CHRIS MARKS: I’ve never really like seen anything about Pride events going on in Napa before, so I feel, like, before this, it was like, I never really knew stuff about Pride. And I never really knew about like the gay community ­– that there was a gay community in Napa – and so knowing that there is and that there’s Pride events, it just really helped me feel a lot more accepted and a lot more welcomed in this community.

CHINA ROSE REED: We live here in Napa. We love just coming down and seeing everybody and have something local to come to, but we wanted to make sure to come down tonight, for sure, to support gay pride in Napa. I mean it’s so awesome that the City Council is supporting us the way that they are – we just wanted to be here to represent.

IAN STANLEY: One of our main goals is awareness and visibility because at our forums that we’ve had over the past two years, people have told us over and over that, if they’re LGBTQ people themselves, they don’t know what’s happening here in the community and the word is not really getting around and folks who are not LGBTQ are not generally talking about LGBTQ things.

MAYOR TECHEL: And the issue was how can we be visible, how can we make the community more welcoming, how can we be sure that people that live here and visitors feel like Napa is a welcoming place.

IAN STANLEY: Even though Napa is only one hour north of the very progressive San Francisco Bay Area, we’re actually worlds apart in terms of where we are at about talking about this and treating people the same.

CHRIS MARKS: Like, if you’re a closeted gay, it’s kind of hard knowing what you want, knowing if there’s someone out there that can help you. And just like seeing the Pride banners around town, just, makes feel, makes the gay community feel a lot more welcomed.

IAN STANLEY: Napa is very ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ I’ve been in Napa since 1984, when I was in the second grade, and I never saw anything gay. Or the things I did see - like when I was in the third grade we played “Smear the Queer” on the playground. So it was very clear that being gay for folks here in Napa was not a good thing. So for me, being gay wasn’t a possibility. I didn’t relate to it. There were no possibilities for me for me to even seem like was real.

MAYOR TECHEL: I think there’s more things going on than I’ve ever seen. I know there’s been a picnic before – and I’ve gone to the picnic – but they’ve got all sorts of things going on and so they’re publicizing it. And I think that’s what’s kind of interesting is – my sister in law said, ‘Jill, do you want to go to the Big Gay Bowling Event?’ That sounds like fun! They’re doing exactly what they hoped to do during this month, which is get the message out. For them to have some fun going to these events, and to really make the community feel welcome that they come and join and that’s why they’re doing it.

IAN STANLEY: My favorite event so far for Napa Valley LGBTQ Pride this year was the Drag Show. It was at Villa Romano. I had no idea what to expect, I think because of the banners that have been put up all around downtown, that the Tourism Improvement District put up, have got a lot of visibility, and there was a huge turn out at Villa Romano. So huge packed room, amazing drag queens, a burlesque performer, great food, and great drinks. It was just an incredible fun time last Friday night.

Napa’s pride week ended last Sunday, but San Francisco Pride weekend is June 29 -30, 2013.