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Celebrating Pride Festival History

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A busy weekend for downtown Palm Springs where more than 100,000 people are expected to gather to celebrate Palm Springs Pride 2017, but pride events haven't always been so welcomed across the country.

The year was 1970, a monumental time in the fight for gay rights. In the midst of the fear, resilience was led by dozens including Pat Rocco.

"The world got to know who we were in that first parade on Hollywood boulevard but we were scared to death," said Rocco.

It was a time when hateful slurs filled the streets and even newspapers demeaning the gay community. A year following the Stonewall Riots in new York's Greenwich Village, gay activism traveled cross-country to California where Rocco was currently living at the time.

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"Why did you march?" asked KMIR's Patrick Price. Rocco's response, "Because we had to, because we were called to it, because the garbage that had been done through the years had to be stopped some way, by somebody. I'm glad to have been that person and among others of course."

Rocco was elected president shortly after to one of the first gay organizations, Christopher Street West. There, he took the pride "march" and transformed it into a gathering to celebrate love while continuing to fight for equality. That movement quickly spread across the country and around the world, as dozens of major cities hosted their own marches.

"All over the world, and we became a community, we became likable, we became understandable, we became people who stood up for each other but had a good reason for doing it. The public now understood what we were all about and yes, we were their sons, their daughters, their baker...we were part of the world," said Rocco.

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The 80's and 90's brought a new challenge that would again endanger the rights of the gay community. The fear of contracting HIV/AIDS across the nation, paved the way for AIDS activism. But it only fueled the fight for equality even more. Pride festivals still managed to bring gay communities across the country even closer together.

"Gay rights, marriage, all of those were different steps, steps, steps and steps." said Rocco. "What it was to me, they were all my babies."

He's watching his children flourish before his eyes. Signs of Palm Springs Pride 2017 are already taking shape. Although he's traveled the world experiencing pride events, there's one he's eager to be a part of for the first time ever.

"I love it, I'm going to love being here and I'm going to love those hugs I'm going to get from some of those people," said Rocco.

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