SAN DIEGO – The Pride Festival held in Balboa Park ended Sunday night and while the exact number of attendees is still being tabulated, the number is anticipated to break records.

The two-day event drew as many as 55,000 people, including about 6,000 volunteers, in the first full Pride Festival celebration since the pandemic began. Fernando Lopez, executive director of San Diego Pride, said attendees had a lot of pent-up energy and the event was the safest and smoothest Pride yet.

Lopez estimated Saturday’s Pride parade in Hillcrest drew some 250,000 people, but official numbers will not be released for a few more weeks.

“It really did feel like this beautiful family reunion,” Lopez said. “All the feedback so far is just gratitude and joy, you know you saw so many people have their first Prides, everyone remembers what their first Pride experience is.” 

“I love street food so much, and all the colors, the music,” one eventgoer said. “It’s great.”

The festival is San Diego Pride’s largest fundraiser of the year, and without the event for two years, Lopez said the organization felt the impact.

“San Diego Pride is actually the most philanthropic Pride in the world,” Lopez said. “We’ve given out more than $3 million to LGBT serving organizations here in this city, all around the country and around the world. So without that revenue from the parade and festival for two years, it was really hard to continue on but to have this opportunity to come back together really helps to fund.”

Not only does the Pride Festival fund San Diego Pride’s advocacy and education around the year, the event is also a great place for small businesses.

“They bring in a lot of money; they bring in a lot of people,” Island Life owner Eric Danel said. “I think it’s good for the surrounding businesses.

Danel makes designed water bottles and hand-crafted water bottle holders. He and his wife sold so many, they had to create more holders on site.