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Behind The Scenes Of The LA Pride Parade


Mariela Spillari remembers the first year the L.A. Pride Parade went back to Hollywood in 2022.

It was a significant time in the parade’s history because the Christopher Street West festivities were leaving West Hollywood for good, and moving back to the roots of the first 1970 parade.

As parade director and producer, Spillari wasn’t sure what kind of crowd they’d get, but thousands of people came. She recalled an emotional moment when a woman marched by with an “amo mi hija trans” sign — “I love my trans daughter.”

“I almost lost it,” said Spillari, who was born in Guatemala. “I’m on a walkie and I just stopped and was like ‘whoa, if this is the kind of impact that this is having, you just can’t put a price on that. You can’t put a value on that’.”

L.A. Pride returns this weekend on June 8 and 9. The parade is in its 54th year, so we decided to take a look at what goes into keeping the oldest permitted pride parade in the world rolling.

The lead-up to the big day

This year will be Spillari’s fourth parade. She and her team spend about six months planning, starting in the beginning of the year.

A selfie of two people with medium light skin tones standing outside in the street in front of a crowd and a Sunset Boulevard street sign. They are wearing green shirts and L.A. Pride rainbow hats.

At left, Mariela Spillari with a member of the team at the L.A. Pride Parade.

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Courtesy Mariela Spillari

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The Christopher Street West Association picks the parade theme (this year it’s Power in Pride). They’ve put on the parade since 1970, and they only have two full-time employees. Contractors are brought in to prepare for June.

As the co-founder of L.A.-based Prima Agency, Spillari and her crew are brought in because of their experience running large-scale events, like the Rose Bowl Parade.

“Parades in general, just the celebratory nature of them, are something that is so significant to a lot of people,” Spillari said. “Then with Pride itself, it just has such an emotional impact and can mean so much to the community. That’s why we take it so seriously.”

A wide view of a people on float to the right and the line of crowds down the street to the left. On the float are rainbow decor as two people with medium light skin tones sit in the front. One person has a blue dress on and a crown.

Participants ride on a float during the 2023 LA Pride Parade in Hollywood

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Mario Tama

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Getty Images

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Her team starts with building the registration form, and later they pick which groups actually walk on parade day. She said this year they’ve “received more applications than ever.”

Official pride parades in general are quite famous for having a lot of big corporate sponsors. But to choose who walks, Spillari said they look at a variety of places, like an organization’s Human Rights Campaign score, Guidestar rating and social media posts to see if and how a company or nonprofit supports LGBTQ+ people.

Stepping off to march

A wide shot of marchers walking outside holding signs. In the foreground is an Asian person with a medium light skin tone and gray hair holding up a rainbow sign with a heart on it. In the heart in yellow lettering is the Chinese symbol for love.

A marcher with PFLAG walks at the 2023 LA Pride Parade with a sign that says “love” in in Chinese

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David McNew

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Getty Images

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On parade day, everyone is bustling with energy.

This will be L.A. Pride’s 54th and largest parade yet. There will be 165 groups marching, ranging from small groups to Disney and ABC7, which is going to have four vehicles and 200 people.

Everyone gets to Hollywood bright and early on Sunday. Spillari said it’s “organized chaos” as floats get in order, fire department inspections happen, and groups work individually to get their people fed and pumped.

“We’re looking at half-built floats and stilt walkers and balloons and florals and all kinds of beautiful, creative, incredible stuff,” Spillari said.

The day-of-production team is about 25 people, made up of mostly women and queer people, Spillari said. They fly in from places like New York, Atlanta, Texas, and San Francisco. Their job is to keep track of everyone and communicate with Spillari about what’s happening on the route.

“I’m actually right at the start of the parade at our step off,” she said, “and have a megaphone and the honor of welcoming everyone in.”

At 11 a.m., people start marching north on Highland Avenue. They turn onto Hollywood Boulevard where a crowd of more than 100,000 people cheer on.

The parade’s a little over a mile long. Once groups turn south onto Cahuenga Boulevard, a disbanding team helps them disassemble. And that’s a wrap.

“It’s truly one of my favorite weekends,” Spillari said. “Year after year, we just get refueled and want to do it all over again.”

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