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LGBTQIA+ Pride, President Biden’s recognition of Juneteenth as a federal holiday, high vaccination rates throughout the Bay Area, California’s recent “reopening” — there is no shortage of reasons to celebrate June 2021.

The culmination of these causes-for-celebration brought many to the Tenderloin Pride Festival on Saturday. The inaugural event, organized by the Tenderloin Merchants Association in partnership with the San Francisco Community Health Center, featured two DJ (disc jockey) stages and a variety of vendors selling food, drinks and merchandise. From noon to 6 p.m., anyone and everyone was welcome to join in the fun.

As the first major outdoor Pride event held in the city since the June 15 loosening of COVID-19-related restrictions, the festival drew a large, enthusiastic crowd of San Franciscans and other Bay Area residents.

Christina Corona, from the East Bay, said, “It’s liberating being here. It feels like you’re back to normal–that you no longer have to worry. I mean, not everyone is vaccinated, but most are. So it feels good to come out here without my mask, and I’m enjoying having so many people around me.”

The Tenderloin is a diverse and social justice-focused San Francisco district, with strong ties to the LGBTQIA+ community. Notably, it houses the Transgender District, a six-block section of great cultural significance. What better place, then, to bring people together to celebrate.

For attendees like Marcelo Leal, the festival served as the perfect means to dance, socialize and be outside, among members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Leal, from Santa Rosa, said, “A friend actually told me about it, and I hadn’t been out in like a year. I’m already vaxxed, so I thought, ‘This is perfect.’ I need to be more around my people. I’ve missed everyone. And even though we’ve been apart for over a year, the energy and love and positivity are still there.”

As if on cue, Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” began to loudly stream through nearby speakers. In response, festival attendees woohooed, waved their Pride flags and started or resumed dancing.

Surrounded by his community and with the audible backdrop of Gaga’s LGBTQIA+ theme song, Leal smiled and added, “It’s just really wonderful to be able to come back to this.”

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