Woodland Pride Arrives on Main Street
Yolo County’s capital recovers from ugly 2022 incident as the community works together to increase visibility and understanding
For the first time in the three years it has held the event, Woodland celebrated Pride month with a festive parade in the heart of its downtown. Over a hundred participants gathered at Main and Walnut Street before stepping off as the town clock chimed ten. The group grew in size as other Yolo County locals joined them for the four-block parade down Main Street. Participants of all ages then packed the nearby United Methodist fellowship hall for an ice cream social, at which they served rainbow sherbert and handed out long-stemmed roses. For a growing city of over 61,000, it sure felt small-town, with a palpable sense of joy and pride at bringing the celebration to the historic downtown corridor.
“We celebrated with a parade and it was nice to see the community come out to support it,” said Mayor Victoria “Vicky” Fernandez. “Hopefully it will continue to grow and we can show that we are an inclusive community and that we are celebrating our diversity in a positive way and that it isn’t just a piece of paper,” she said, referring to the City’s official Pride Month Declaration.
Fernandez marched in the parade with her daughter and grand-daughter, along with other other city leaders from the fire and police departments. Other participants included the County Diversion Court Program, local Methodist and Episcopal churches, the Woodland Area Roller Derby (WARD), Yolo County Democrats, Empower Yolo, Communicare, and the Woodland Education Association. The event was hosted by CommuniCare Health Center and overseen by Elevate Queer Yolo — a part of CommuniCare’s Behavioral Health Department that works with LGBTQ+ youth and young adults in Yolo County.
Just getting started
Despite the excitement, upbeat music and loads of color, Main Street was very quiet on parade day with many shops closed and only sporadic bystanders cheering on the marchers. While the city is the County seat and second only to Davis in its population, the LGBTQ+ community here is clearly just starting to make its presence more known.
“This normally is a very accepting community,” said WARD roller derby member Gwendolyn Costa, who has lived in Woodland for 27 years. “And very loving, and we definitely take care of each other.” She estimates that over half of the team are in the LGBTQ+ community. “But everybody’s welcome. Everybody is definitely welcome to come and play!”
Costa has not personally had any problems living in this closely-knit city, but had friends who were at Mojo’s Lounge just a year ago when extremists disrupted the Drag Happy Hour yelling homophobic slurs.
“It was a lot of disrespect. A lot of heartbreak. I wasn’t expecting that from this community,” she noted.
Mayor Fernandez was actually at the local establishment the night of the incident.
“I was there at Mojo’s having dinner with my family members,” said Mayor Fernandez. “And so I witnessed the fear that was within Mojo’s,” she said. “We should have been able to celebrate together without any fear of repercussions or any intimidation, which I think the individuals who were there were trying to do, but I think we’re more resilient than that. I was happy to see that today.”
Woodland Joint Unified School District Trustee Kandice Richardson Fowler says she believes the agitators came from outside the county. She also acknowledges the “deep digging” the school board needed to do just this month at the June 15 board meeting. Newly-elected board trustee Emily MacDonald reportedly made some divisive remarks. According to an editorial in The Daily Democrat, MacDonald claimed that lesbians and gay men have little in common with transgender people and claimed that a rise in teenagers identifying themselves as transgender is caused by “Social Contagion.”
“During her three-minute speech, I raised my hand to speak,” said Fowler, who also did a bit of quick Googling to be sure she had the facts right. “I quoted from the Smithsonian about Marsha P. Johnson and how she was very pivotal at the Stonewall riots and in the movement to gain rights for the LGBTQIA community.” Fowler says she also mentioned her children, noting that “statistically, one of my three daughters may be part of the community. And would I rather have a daughter who is suffering in silence or would I have a loving relationship with any of their identities?”
Notably, during Woodland’s Pride parade six of the seven trustees marched in a larger group that carried both a banner for the Woodland Education Association and letters spelling out the word “EQUITY.”
Woodland has officially celebrated Pride since 2018, when Fernandez’ son was mayor and it was first proclaimed in this historic Gold Rush town. While the city still offers small-town charm with the historic buildings that line Main Street and nearby alleys with memorable names like Dead Cat and Dog Gone, it also offers top-class entertainment at the Woodland Opera House, various museums emphasizing the area’s agricultural past, and the Velocity Island Aqua Park, which has a variety of water sports, including a wakeboard park with cable towns and a 25,000 square-foot giant inflatable obstacle course.
For everything that Woodland has going on, including its new downtown Pride parade, Fernandez stresses the need for solid relationship and understanding in the middle of it all.
“I believe we have a responsibility to work together and to collaborate and make sure that we are respectful, kind and inclusive and compassionate,” said Fernandez. “ I think that’s really what it’s about… love has no boundaries and should have the right to express it however we believe and feel like there shouldn’t be any limitations on love.”
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To see more images from other Pride events, check out my page https://imagesbychrisa.com/planet-pride/
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