The first few years I just went to wander around, check out the booths selling everything from belt buckles to gyros. Music from rock to gospel, salsa to techno and always a country music line dancing tent are spread around the edges of the festival like the edges of a pizza crust.
In the last 10 years or so, I have gone to the festival on Saturdays (occasionally Sundays) and volunteered to work at one of the Pride sponsored areas. Most years I sell tickets at $1 a pop for festival goers to take to Pride sponsored soft drink/water stands and/or beer stands. Sometimes the ticket selling feels like wading into the midst of a slow running stream to fly fish and, on other years, the four-hour minimum block of time one can volunteer soars by with chatty, sometimes pickled patrons and easy-going fellow volunteers.
Every now and then, I've worked Security for one of the stages (either I'm too old or the music is too loud or the work too dull, but I'm not cut out for Security) or given soft drinks/water in exchange for tickets (I almost got a friend of mine connected with a dude at which he could not stop staring and drooling. My friend begged and begged me not to do it and, at the last minute, I acquiesced).
This year, I volunteered for something new. To say what it was would wash away any anonymity. Suffice to say it was the least amount of fun I have had at any one of these events. I'm thinking next year (and for years to come) I'll stick with beverage ticket sales.
I usually volunteer in the afternoons. The festival has a fair number of attendees in the afternoons and, by the time my shift is over, the grounds begin to swell with partygoers and the whole atmosphere begins to change. Sadly, by the time my shift ended, I had missed watching that same friend of mine from years ago at the soda/water booth singing on one of the stages for his first time. I did get an photo of an interesting paring of booths. One of the best things about the Festival is that commerce, social awareness and politics all exist side by side here.
The effect as one walks past these booths with a funnel cake in one hand and a souvenir plastic mug of diet lemonade in the other can be a bit jarring; however, it's as an eclectic a mix as the festival goers themselves.
Just a few handouts passed to me this year. The gay bars/clubs, as usual, were in full force. One of the most clever was a tiny baggie for a spa chain (the home page is tame, but I'd imagine going much further into the site would be "adults only") There is another word which I could use to describe this chain; however, I cannot bring myself to do it. The baggie contained, of course, a business card sized advertisement for the spa that doubled as a coupon, a link to another side for "hookups", a single use fast-food style packet of personal lubricant and a condom (which, as the advertisement says in slightly smaller font than the rest of the ad, encourages use of by saying "Play Safe / Condoms are always FREE").
If you must frequent a place like that for activity it can suggest but not outright say, you might as well be properly equipped and fully educated. And, if they hold true to their house rules, better still.
Cutest flyer goes to the South Coast Chorale. I even took the time to enter into their drawing for two tickets to their next performance. I have a little over a month into talking my better half into going - I'm a sucker for choral performance.
Best moment of my day in Long Beach? I'd have to pick two though neither occurred on the festival grounds! Thanks to my employer's metro pass, I had a free ride to and from Long Beach. On the ride there, I was so amused first watching a infant boy, couldn't have been more than a year old, staring at me intently like I was the oddest thing he'd ever seen. Later in the ride, I could not get over a couple my age with nine children, early teen to toddler, in tow. How they managed to keep all nine of them in line, especially with kids so often left to meander by their parents while out in public, was especially impressive.
Then, on the ride home, I could not resist playing (as did most of the riders in the vicinity) with a little girl who couldn't have been any older than three. Her parents both looked exhausted yet the girl was ready, able and willing to carry on through the night. Another man's sleight of hand and my silly version of "peek-a-boo" were all she needed to stay amused and she played right along with all of us.
I look forward to next year's Festival and hope that I may experience it then as those little ones on the metro yesterday saw their world - wide eyed, energized and anxious to see what's around the corner.