Approximately 60,000 people attended this year’s L.A. Pride festivities in West Hollywood, while 150,000 watched the Pride parade. Those were some of the figures the producer of the event reported Tuesday night during the monthly board meeting of Christopher Street West (CSW), the nonprofit that puts on L.A. Pride.
Jeff Consoletti, the owner of JJ|LA, a live event production company that has produced the pride event since 2010, said that radio frequency identification (RFID) bracelets used at this year’s Pride event made it possible to track exactly how many people came into the festival grounds in West Hollywood Park. On Saturday, 20,000 people attended, while 23,000 attended on Sunday. The maximum capacity for the festival grounds is 30,000.
Friday, the opening night of the festival, was free, so RFID bracelets were not used, but the West Hollywood Sheriff’s station estimated 17,000 attended. The sheriff’s station also estimated 150,000 people watched along the parade route on Santa Monica Boulevard on Sunday morning.
Under the leadership of former President Rodney Scott, CSW often bragged that 300,000 to 400,000 people attended the Pride parade and festival. However an analysis of CSW’s tax filings by WEHOville showed that the number of festival attendees on a particular day was more likely 28,000.
CSW has not released financial figures about either its 2015 or 2016 Pride events. But a copy of its 2016 profit and loss statement made available to WEHOville showed a loss of $395,000 on this summer’s Pride festival.
Consoletti speculated that festival attendance for Sunday was down somewhat compared to 2015 because of security concerns following the mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. However, he could not accurately compare attendance figures between the two years because the RFID bracelets were not used in 2015. Last year, Pride workers scanned people’s tickets each time they entered the festival ground, which may have distorted the count because some people came in and out and returned. However, the RFID bracelets allowed CSW to count each unique visitor, regardless of how many times he or she came and went
“The RFID bracelets helped to maintain an accountability of guests coming to show. We now know how many guests are going out and how many are coming in,” Consoletti said, noting they did not track where people went once they were inside the festival grounds.
CSW board member Craig Bowers reported that the vast majority of ticket sales were single-day tickets sold at the gate. Most of the small number of people who purchased tickets in advance online bought multiple-day tickets.
Consoletti also reported that the federal Department of Homeland Security was kept abreast of planning for the event, even before the Orlando shootings. While this raised some eyebrows, Consoletti explained that Homeland Security is involved with any large gathering of people, even an L.A. Dodgers baseball game.
“Homeland Security has a pulse on what’s going on,” Consoletti said. “Homeland Security has not been something that we’ve been foreign to for this event, just based on the amount of the crowds coming to West Hollywood over the course of production straight on through.”
This year for the first time, L.A. Pride used metal detectors to scan people entering the grounds, something that created long delays at the gate. However, Consoletti said people seemed to understand the need for the metal detectors, noting that metal detectors are becoming standard at large gatherings, including concerts like the Lollapalooza Festival and the Coachella Music Festival.
Each visitor spent an average of $22 on food or drinks while inside the festival grounds, with a total of $775,000 spent on beverages and $182,000 spent on food. Of the beverage sales revenue, 58% was for liquor, 34% was for beer, 6% for non-alcoholic drinks and 2% was for wine. In the past, CSW used local non-profit groups to handle food and beverage sales, giving them a share of the revenue. In 2015 it began using an outside company. CSW receives 55% of net profits, after credit card fees, merchant fees, etc. are taken out.
A medical tent set up like an emergency room triage center with doctors and nurses in attendance was used for the first time this year. Of the 26 people who came to the medical tent, 21 were for alcohol- or drug-related problems, and four were transported to a hospital emergency room. In 2015, when Pride only had a first-aid tent without any doctors, 34 people used it, and 29 were for alcohol- or drug-related issues and 14 people were taken to the hospital.
Consoletti, who produced the event on a $2.1 million budget, reported that specialized areas helped make the festival more enjoyable for attendees, singling out Sizzle, the alcohol-free, sober area which had many carnival games.
“Sizzle has done a great job of getting people excited to be at the event, hang out at the event and do something,” he said. “Sizzle has been a really strong performer.”
At this month’s meeting, Christopher Street West also welcomed four new board members: Erica Meyer, a bisexual woman; Ashlee-Marie Preston, an African-American transgender woman; Dan Morin, a retired gay man; and Will DeSmit, a gay man in his late 20s. The addition of these four brings the total number of CSW board members to 15. Meanwhile, a longtime board member, Bill Hinkle, has left the board.