With cascading sunshine, crashing waves and summer tourists long gone, Saturday Oct. 3 marked a near flawless day at the Boardwalk, and a prime afternoon to introduce the park’s newest annual attraction. Under a rainbow flag waving in the beginning-of-fall breeze, local families and their supporters gathered for the Boardwalk’s first Gay Family Day.
The event was the brainchild of the Boardwalk’s marketing department and the Diversity Center, a local nonprofit supporting the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) community. The Boardwalk donated a portion of event ticket sales to the center, and according to Boardwalk representative Kris Reyes, the partnership proved as perfect as the weather.
“We’re always looking for new promotions and new special events to do at the Boardwalk,” Reyes said. “The Diversity Center approached us about doing an event, we met with them, and it just sounded like a great thing for us to put on.”
Families gathered adjacent to the Boardwalk’s Casino Arcade at the Aloha Terrace, a grassy area complete with game and informational booths, food, face painting, magicians and a troupe of Tahitian dancers.
Amber Flansaas and Reb Botelho were happy to attend the event with young children Raina and Bridger at their sides.
“I really like that it’s a Gay Family Day, because we have “Pride” and “Gay Days,” but I think families can get excluded,” Flansaas said. “I love the emphasis on family. It allows us to celebrate who we are and how much we love each other.”
Other attendees were grateful for the safe haven the day provided. Cynthia Druley said she was felt welcome and at home at the local landmark.
“It’s nice to be able to walk around and see lots of other gay people being affectionate,” Druley said. “You feel safer when you’re in a larger number. It’s like we’re given permission to be open and hold hands.”
Roger Hunt was also happy with the sense of security the day afforded to families.
“We feel very strongly about being visible and proud, and I think it’s important we all support each other like this,” Hunt said. “Contrary to popular belief, it’s not that safe to ‘be out,’ even in Santa Cruz or San Francisco.”
The event attracted a small but enthusiastic crowd, and Reyes said the Boardwalk and Diversity Center are already thinking about what they can change or add to the event next year.
“I think they should have a body building contest next year,” Hunt said with a smile. “I think that would draw a lot more people.”
Attendees were thankful both for the festivities and the company, but some were also curious why it took so long for this type of event to happen at the Boardwalk. Many amusement parks around the country, most famously Disneyland, have been holding Gay Family Days for many years now.
“I think this is long overdue,” Druley said. “I can’t believe that the Boardwalk hasn’t done anything like this for so long. But I think it’s a great thing and I hope it becomes an annual event.”
According to Reyes, it’s well on its way.
“We hope that it grows into a long-term event,” Reyes said. “It’s an event that’s successful at other parks, so I think it can be successful here too.”
Jim Brown, a volunteer at the Diversity Center, felt the Boardwalk made wise community choices — as well as astute economic ones — by hosting the festivities.
“I think [the event] is twofold. I think the Boardwalk is doing a great thing in making sure the GLBT community feels welcome,” Brown said. “Also, market research shows that if you create a relationship with the GLBT community, if you can become a trusted brand, then those community members will be very loyal.”
Indeed, all who commented on the day said they would gladly return to a second annual Gay Family Day should one take place.
The finances are solid. The social outcomes look good for both parties. However, one of the best reasons for Gay Family Day’s pending 2010 return came from Amber Flansaas’ son Bridger, 6, who responded with a grin when asked if he was having fun,
“Well yeah,” Bridger said with a shrug. “I think just about everybody in the whole wide world loves the Boardwalk.”