Pride party is prepared for record attendance

Imagine planning the largest wedding reception in U.S. history — with a guest list nearly doubling The City’s population — in less than a month.

That’s what preparations for the 38th annual San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration and Parade have felt like since May 15, when California’s Supreme Court authorized same-sex couples to marry in the state, according to Brendan Behan, the festival’s communications director.

“We were gearing up for the final push for [Pride weekend], and this huge watershed historical moment just hits us,” Behan said.

Organizers for the massive downtown festival — the largest LGBT gathering in the nation — expect the court’s decision to boost this year’s attendance to a record-shattering1.2 million, an increase of 200,000 from the four previous years.

S.F. Pride’s staff has worked more than 500 extra hours in the past 30 days to accommodate an influx of marriage-minded revelers, Behan said. The Pride celebration takes 60 weeks to plan, he said.

“To have an event the size of five city blocks, it’s not easy to carve out space when it’s a straight addition like this,” Behan said. “It’s literally like we need an entire new venue.”

Organizers have sectioned off space in Civic Center Plaza for a new “Get Engaged!” pavilion, which will be steps from the courthouse where state Supreme Court justices authorized gay marriages. The venue will offer same-sex couples a chance to learn about the legalities of marriage, to meet those who worked to legalize them, and to find out about a November ballot measure that could, if passed, invalidate the Supreme Court decision, Behan said.

“We really want to get people in touch with the movement,” he said.

Of course, S.F. Pride this year isn’t all about gay marriage. Comedian Margaret Cho and crooner Cyndi Lauper are two more reasons to celebrate gay pride.

Cho and Lauper will perform Sunday on the main stage. Lauper, who is promoting a new album, also will join Charo and Stuart Milk, the nephew of slain Supervisor Harvey Milk, as a grand marshal of the parade.

Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly is being honored as the 2008 recipient of the Pink Brick, which is awarded to a person or organization activists say has greatly harmed the LGBT community. Mikayla Connell, the president of Pride’s board, was invited on O’Reilly’s show earlier this month to present him with this year’s brick.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

By the numbers

A quick peek into the LGBT parade

» 38: Years running

» About 1.2 million: Expected turnout

» About 1 million: Last year’s turnout

» 200: Parade contingents

» 300: Exhibitors

» 19: Stages and venues

Schedule for LGBT Festival

The LGBT Pride Parade is Sunday; it starts at Market and Beale streets at 10:30 a.m. and ends at Market and Eighth streets at approximately 12:30 p.m.

» The Civic Center Festival is Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m.

MAIN STAGE

Saturday:

» San Francisco Opera: 12:45 p.m.

» SF Gay Men’s Chorus: 2:15 p.m.

» Terese Genecco & Her Little Big Band: 2:50 p.m.

» Meshell Ndegeocello: 3:40 p.m.

» Marriage Equality: 4:55 p.m.

Sunday:

» Charo: 12:40 p.m.

» Liam Shy & Woman — A tribute to Harvey Milk: 1 p.m.

» Margaret Cho, Grand Marshals: 1:15 p.m.

» Cyndi Lauper: 1:30 p.m.

» The Three Tenors: 1:40 p.m.

» Chantal Chamandy: 2:20 p.m.

» Crystal Waters: 4:05 p.m.

» Inaya Day: 4:55 p.m.

» Kat DeLuna: 5:15 p.m.

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