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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Encino

Valley Gay Pride Festival Continues

October 01, 2000|ROBERTO J. MANZANO

Many of the participants Saturday at the San Fernando Valley's first gay pride festival were happy to find a venue for increasing awareness and acceptance of gays and lesbians--and in their own backyard.

"We need to find an identity [in the Valley], as opposed to everything being over the hill," said Bob Carroll, 41, of Northridge.

Not having to go over the hill to West Hollywood all the time was an important message of the two-day festival at Woodley Avenue Park. The event featured live entertainment and booths.

Organizers wanted to showcase local resources for gays and lesbians, festival Chairman Paul Waters said.

The first L.A./Valley Pride: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Awareness Festival also was an opportunity to support people coming to terms with their sexual orientation, Waters said.

Young gay people especially need guidance and support, said Berry Payne, a spokesman for UNITY GLBT Inc, a group trying to open a community center in North Hollywood. The group has organized talent shows and dances at the Christ Chapel of the Valley in North Hollywood, Payne said.

"Most of the groups have been based out of the bars and many people aren't bar-goers," he said.

People who are HIV-positive can receive care nearby, said Mark Henrickson, director of the Northeast Valley Health Corp. in Panorama City, which offers free or low-cost care to people with HIV. There are about 2,000 people with AIDS in the Valley and about 7,000 more infected with the HIV virus, but many are not aware of it, Henrickson said.

And many gay people aren't aware of the resources available, organizers said.

"People in the Valley are still living with the belief they have to go downtown for some type of lesbian or gay life," Henrickson said. "For people to see there's life over the other side of the hill is a great idea."

Not all of the people at the festival are gay. About 20% of people who attend gay festivals are straight, said Waters, who started the Simi Valley gay pride festival three years ago.

"I came to stop hate crimes and support my gay friends because too many people are closed-minded," said Sena Dietz, 17, of Calabasas.

The festival continues today from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults; $7 for seniors, the disabled and teens; and free for pre-teens accompanied by an adult.

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