A part of LA Pride in West Hollywood since 2014, #SIZZLE! Carnival at Pride Festival is unique in its emphasis on an alcohol- and drug-free environment and safe space.
LA Pride organizers and proponents of the Alcohol/Drug-Free zone stress that it 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. They expect 30,000 visitors at this year’s LA Pride festival.
“The celebration of pride has so many meanings within our LGBT community,” said City of West Hollywood Councilmember John J. 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.”
The carnival, will once again be a central feature of the LA Pride in West Hollywood, taking place on June 8-9 at West Hollywood Park.
“#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 percent 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 percent believe underage youth are being served alcohol at Pride, and more than 60 percent believe meth use is prevalent at Pride.
Captain Edward Ramirez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department West Hollywood SubStation says public perception is actually 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 says the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The NIDA stated that 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 City of West Hollywood Human Services Commission member Jimmy Palmieri.
West Hollywood, like other communities across the nation, 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, officials are proactively working to advance public health, safety and quality of life by implementing a set of strategic initiatives, which seek 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 hosted by the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the West Hollywood Project in partnership with the City of West Hollywood and Christopher Street West. 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 in West Hollywood admission.