Burbank community members joined together for Family Pride in the Park, the city’s first-ever pride gathering, on the evening of Friday, Sept. 30, in Magnolia Park.
The event, which took place at the UMe Credit Union parking lot, was hosted by Burbank Pride in partnership with Magnolia Park Merchants Association.
Actor and author Mayim Bialik kicked off the festivities with an opening statement to the group of attendees. The Jeopardy! host and Big Bang Theory alum, who has starred in Warner Bros. projects for nearly two decades, stated that she’s been a Burbank community member “pretty much [her] whole life.” Bialik felt compelled to make an appearance at the celebration in order to support LGBTQ residents and promote uniting the entire city.
“… I know this community and love it very much,” Bialik said. “I especially think it’s important for visibility and transparency about the reality of our community, which is that it’s made up of all different kinds of people with all different kinds of identities. And we all need to be part of a community together.”
“It’s a beautiful event no matter how you identify or if you’re an ally. I brought my kid, and we’re having a great time,” Bialik added.
The night consisted of onstage appearances by performers like the evening’s host, Betti with an I, Ms. Knightley, Homer Marrs, the Troubies, the John Burroughs High School Drama Club, and Isabella Meneses, who sang the national anthem.
The sponsors of the ceremony were The Trevor Project, Macy’s, Elevate Burbank and Linda Bessin, the Burbank Community YMCA, and Nickelodeon Animation Studios. Additional supporters were Warner Bros., Costco, Unique Vintage, Belmont Village Senior Living, the Colony Theatre, Senator Anthony Portantino, Isabel Omero, the Little White Chapel, Burbank Temple Emanu El, and Mocean.
Burbank Pride Sponsorship Chair Isabel Omero was instrumental in planning the event, which was conceived in 2020, just prior to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Omero discussed seeing everyone get together following the years-long process of bringing a pride event to Burbank. This included collaborating with fellow Burbank Pride leaders like PR Chair Madison Jones McAleese and President Tracy Tabb.
“This was an opportunity to introduce the trans, LGBT community as a whole to Burbank as a whole,” Omero said. “If you could get the two groups together – a lot of times people don’t know each other, they may not know their neighbor down the street – but now they can see who their neighbors are and that we can all be friends. Nobody’s scaring anybody, and it’s a beautiful thing.”
Local dignitaries like State Senator Anthony Portantino, Burbank Vice Mayor Konstantine Anthony, and Burbank City Councilmembers Nick Schultz and Sharon Springer visited the event. Springer has attended Burbank PFLAG meetings for the past seven years and shared that “there’s no way [she] would not come” to the gathering as an LGBTQ ally.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Springer said of Family Pride In The Park. “I think the turnout is phenomenal, and I’m just very grateful. It’s great to see everybody out here. This is Burbank. The love that’s here is just really heartwarming.”
“I want our community to come together, and I want everybody to feel accepted and included and safe and that they belong. I’m just thrilled,” she added.
A variety of food trucks were present around the UMe lot, and about 60 presentations by vendors and organizations were set up. The Conundrum Theatre Company, the Burbank Community YMCA Social Impact Center, Home Again Los Angeles, The Gay Freedom Band of Los Angeles, Valley Community Healthcare, Burbank Temple Emanu El, and more interacted with guests and informed them about their services. In addition, a booth was in place on behalf of the Nickelodeon Animation Let’s Draw initiative, which creates a space for children at events to draw and foster their creativity.
Co-presidents of the Burbank Temple Emanu El’s board of directors, Lauren Conner and Limor Zimskind, organized a table set up with a display of homemade rainbow-colored challah. Zimpskind explained that she, Conner, and their fellow BTEE members swiftly showed enthusiasm for offering encouragement to the LGBTQ community upon learning about Family Pride In The Park.
“When this opportunity came up, we were like, ‘This is great,’” Zimskind said. “ … We just wanted to be a part of the community and support.”
Friends Jhelab Bell and Christopher Robinson walked around the celebration together and watched performers take the stage. Bell, who has resided in Burbank for two years, is part of the LGBTQ community and is optimistic that Family Pride in the Park will lead to LGBTQ members feeling more welcome in Burbank.
“Hopefully, [it will signal] just more change, more acceptance …. That would be lovely,” Bell said. “Every time that I come down here, it’s always been really quiet, and I’ve never seen anything like this before in Burbank. So it’s pretty cool.”
A group of high schoolers who are enrolled at John Burroughs High School and Burbank High School, as well as a handful from Providence High School, contributed as event volunteers. The participants carried out shifts either setting up, working the event, or cleaning up at the end of the evening. 16-year-old Burroughs student Ever Huerta helped facilitate this opportunity for classmates to earn volunteer hours through their assistance in conducting Family Pride in the Park.
“It’s truly just an amazing event that’s getting the community involved,” Huerta said.
With a strong turnout from Burbank residents of all backgrounds, Omero voiced the overarching themes of solidarity and neighborhood connectedness that Family Pride in the Park stands for.
“For the Burbank community as a whole, I think [the message is] just that everybody’s the same,” Omero said. “Everybody’s people. We all live in the same town, we work at the same places, … And this is another opportunity just to show there’s no reason to worry, there’s no reason to be afraid of one another. I think that’s the lesson.”
To learn more about Burbank Pride, visit their site here.
Note: Prior to the start of Family Pride in the Park, protestors had shared on social media that they planned to visit the area and voice their opposition to the event. The Burbank Police Department was at the event as planned, BPD Police Chief Mike Albanese, BPD Patrol Captain Adam Cornils, and BPD officers patrolled the area to ensure that safety was maintained.