“#Sizzle,” an alcohol-free carnival, will once again be a central feature of the LA Pride celebration June 8-9 at West Hollywood Park. What makes the #Sizzle space unique is its emphasis on an alcohol- and drug-free environment.
“The celebration of pride has so many meanings within our LGBT community,” said West Hollywood Councilmember John Duran. “We wanted to make sure that a space existed within the festival for those community members who wish to remain alcohol- and drug-free during the festival and parade.”
“#Sizzle – A Carnival of Attraction,” currently in its sixth year, is a two-day ‘fun zone’ within the festival that features a live DJ, carnival-style games and over 10,000 prizes for attendees to win. #Sizzle has proven to be a very popular part of the LA Pride Festival. #Sizzle organizers expect 30,000 visitors this year.
“#Sizzle isn’t just for the recovery community,” said Alexis Sanchez, prevention specialist with the West Hollywood Project, the organization that helps produce #Sizzle. “It’s a great example of how, in a safe space, people can express who they are and what they believe without the influence of drugs and alcohol.”
In a survey of last year’s #Sizzle visitors, 86% of respondents indicated they believe it’s important to have a drug- and alcohol-free space within the festival. Thirty percent of survey respondents reported they believe alcohol abuse is a problem at Pride, 40% believe underage youth are being served alcohol at Pride, and more than 60% believe meth use is prevalent at Pride.
In an announcement of the event, Capt. Edward Ramirez of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station says public perception is worse than reality. “We have some fighting which is usually related to alcohol, but folks at Pride have generally been well behaved. No teenagers are getting into trouble and there are very few complaints,” Ramirez said.
Some of the public perception may be because drug and alcohol abuse are more common within the LGBTQ community. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, adults defined as “sexual minority” (lesbian, gay, bisexual) were more than twice as likely as heterosexual adults to have used illicit drugs; 10% of sexual minority adults misuse prescription pain medications as compared to 4.5% of heterosexual adults.
“While we still see significant drug use in the gay community, having a dedicated drug- and alcohol-free section of LA Pride is symbolic of the transition away from substance abuse,” said West Hollywood Human Services Commission member Jimmy Palmieri.
The City of West Hollywood, like other communities across the U.S., experiences many preventable crashes, injuries, deaths and other problems related to abuse of alcohol and other drugs. Due to the city’s large number of alcohol related businesses within its 1.9 square mile city limits, West Hollywood officials have been working to implement a set of strategic initiatives to curb injuries, fatalities, and overall substance use. Alcohol-free events help to slowly change social norms that equate fun with the presence of alcohol.
#Sizzle is one of several high-profile West Hollywood events billed as alcohol- and drug-free. Another big annual alcohol free event is #Boom, a New Year’s Eve bash that’s become a West Hollywood holiday tradition. The West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce hosts an alcohol-free business mixer during the Fall.
#Sizzle is hosted by the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the West Hollywood Project in partnership with the City of West Hollywood and Christopher Street West. A volunteer planning committee made up of members of the West Hollywood Project community advisory board, other agency representatives and grassroots community members come together to plan and host the event. #Sizzle receives support from the City of West Hollywood and several other organizations including the Los Angeles LGBT Center, Christopher Street West, APLA Health, Breathe Life Healing Centers, and the West Hollywood Recovery Center. More than 250 volunteers show up each year to help carry out the event.
Public hours for the #Sizzle carnival are noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. #Sizzle is free with LA Pride Festival admission.