1st Gay Festival Scheduled May 31

Simi Valley's first Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival this spring will be as much a chance to educate as to celebrate, organizers say.

"This event is more than just a festival," said Paul Waters, a Valley Village resident and festival coordinator. "It's an opportunity for both the gay and straight communities to learn more about each other."

The daylong event May 31, at the corner of Los Angeles Avenue and Cochran Street, will include entertainment acts and more than 70 informational exhibits and vendor stalls from organizations such as the Los Angeles Police Department and the Simi Valley-based gay social group Lambda Friends.

Waters said the idea for the festival was born last August after he and a group of others asked themselves why Ventura County was one of the only counties in Southern California that lacked such an event.

With several organizations such as the United Church of Christ, which has adopted an open policy with respect to age, doctrinal beliefs, race and sexual preference, Lambda Friends and the See-Me Squares, a square-dance club run by Waters, already in place in the city, Simi Valley seemed the logical locale.

"It was really the city that gave us the idea," Waters said. "This is a first for the county, and Simi Valley just seemed like the right place."

Organizers hope to attract 4,000 to 8,000 to the Simi Valley event. Yet even if the numbers don't approach those expectations, Waters said it will be a success.

"Even though we've billed it as a gay pride festival, it's really a celebration for the entire community," he said. "And on top of that, it's an opportunity to let people know just how fair-minded the people of Simi Valley are."

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