Richard H. Rioux Memorial Park in Stevenson Ranch glowed with color on Saturday as QueerSCV and PFLAG Santa Clarita, or Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, joined together for a Picnic in the Park as a part of LGBTQ+ Pride Month.
QueerSCV vice president Nicole Vizcarra said the earliest moment she encountered PFLAG was last year during its 30th anniversary event at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.
“One thing was clear — a lot of people were coming, almost too big for a church,” she said. “So we needed to step up our game and we liked that idea, so we took that challenge and ran with it and decided to do our own Pride but (near) Valencia, so you don’t have to go to the monster one, if you don’t want to, in West Hollywood or different cities. It’s easier, it’s convenient, it’s in town, it’s family-friendly.”
The picnic featured live music, snacks and several carnival games, such as cornhole games and a trivia wheel, along with other more uniquely named, such as “Queer Pong” — without the beer. Guests could win or pick up stickers, various flags and other swag. Strength United, a support group from California State University Northridge, also had a tent for guests to stop by and speak to representatives.
“We’re finding it to be a fantastic day,” said PFLAG co-founder Peggy Stabile. “There have been over 220 people who have come by, many of whom are lunching with us and enjoying carnival games and just chit-chatting with their neighbors. It’s everything that we had hoped for — a beautiful sense of community.”
The picnic also received support from the Valencia branch of Boston Scientific and one of its resource groups PRIDE, or Promoting Respect, Inclusion, Diversity and Equality. They provided food, water and live music for the picnic. PRIDE chapter lead Stephen Smith said they wanted to help after noticing Pride events go on in other parts of southern California, yet none in Santa Clarita.
“We wanted to establish something community- and family-oriented,” he said.
Wives Marni and Stephanie Aston brought their young daughter Cora to what became her first Pride event.
“It’s great to bring her to this, be supported and have support from friends,” Marni said.
The Astons heard about the picnic through a family friend who was going to take his son and recommended they check it out. This way, the Saugus residents could stop by at something smaller, quieter, yet, strongly supportive compared with Los Angeles Pride.
“We really don’t have any gay friends in the community, so this was a huge thing for us, to meet new people,” Stephanie said.
Stabile said the picnic is a way for children and parents to meet other families, for people to share their own commonalities and feel embraced by the community. Going forward, Vizcarra and Stabile saw Saturday’s picnic as what will be the first of many in the years to come.
“This event is going to become annual,” Vizcarra said. “I feel like it’s going really well at this location, so I foresee it being annual again here. We’ll have other events for sure. This one is going to be the big one.”