Raudel Covarrubias, Pajaro Valley Pride board vice president, sits outside their home in Watsonville.
Raudel Covarrubias, Pajaro Valley Pride board vice president, sits outside their home in Watsonville.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Civic Life

‘Don’t be a Drag, just be a Queen!’: Pajaro Valley Pride gears up for annual march and celebration Sunday

Pride week is underway in the Pajaro Valley, with festivities culminating in Sunday’s march and celebration in Watsonville. With drag performers under attack across the United States, Pajaro Valley Pride organizers are putting special focus this year on drag’s contributions to LGBTQ+ history and culture.

Pajaro Valley Pride, a Watsonville-based nonprofit supporting the LGBTQ+ community, is hosting its eighth annual Pride celebration this week. It is the group’s first time offering a full week of Pride events, and this year, there’s a special focus on drag queens.

This year’s theme, “Don’t be a Drag, just be a Queen,” was picked to honor drag queens — highlighting their contributions to LGBTQ+ history and culture and in light of the rising threats against drag performers, locally as well as across the country.

“Every year we have a theme, and this year it’s for drag queens in light of our political climate right now,” said Raudel Covarrubias, the board’s vice president. “Usually we have a more diverse set [of performers], but this year, it’s just drag, and on top of that, we’re gonna have a drag reading for kids.”

Coming up: At least 16 drag performers, drag story time readers, art vendors and local nonprofits, as well as the Monterey County Health Department, among others, will be participating.

The Sunday Pajaro Valley Pride march and celebration in Watsonville starts at 11 a.m. in front of the YWCA Community House located at 340 E. Beach St. The march starts at 11:30 a.m. and makes a full circle around Watsonville High School’s fields before ending back in the YWCA courtyard. The celebration will then take place on the front lawn until 4 p.m.

The organizers of a drag story time event in Watsonville say they are disappointed that a local newspaper published a...

On Monday, Pajaro Valley Pride kicked off its week of celebrations with a candle workshop at home and clothing shop TBH in Watsonville’s East Lake Village Shopping Center. On Wednesday, drag queen “Trashy” hosted trivia all about drag queens at the Slough Brewing Collective. The weekend kicks off Friday night with a dance party and drag performances at Franco’s Norma Jean Nightclub in Castroville.

Pajaro Valley Pride 2023 flyer


Eighth annual celebration details

When: Sunday, Aug. 20, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: YWCA Community House, 340 E. Beach St., Watsonville

The march starts around 11:30 in front of the YWCA Community House and makes a full circle around Watsonville High School’s fields until ending back in the YWCA courtyard. The celebration on the front lawn follows, ending at 4 p.m.

Covarrubias, who uses he/they pronouns, said Pajaro Valley Pride typically celebrates Pride in August so it doesn’t overlap with other celebrations in San Francisco and Santa Cruz, which host events during Pride month in June.

The group is expecting the crowd to continue to grow, as it has since festivities returned last year from a two-year pause due to the pandemic. This year, Pajaro Valley Pride added two more food vendors after last year’s single food vendor was swamped with orders from the larger-than-expected crowd, Covarrubias said.

He said the group just established its nonprofit status — which it hopes will boost fundraising efforts for annual scholarships that go toward LGBTQ+ youth and allies. In the past, Pajaro Valley Pride raised money for operations and scholarships through the drag events it hosts as well as funds raised through sales of special-edition drinks in partnership with Watsonville’s Fruition Brewing. In recent years, the group has ramped up its number of events.

“We went from having events like twice every six months, then three every six months,” Covarrubias said. “And then this year, we had at least one or two events every month.”

At the same time, threats and attacks against the LGBTQ+ community, and especially drag, have significantly increased. State legislatures across the country have introduced and passed bills banning drag performances although many have been blocked and others have also failed to pass.

In May, local newspaper Good Times published an anonymous letter with transphobic messaging that targeted a drag story time event. That letter elicited substantial community protest and discussion. Pajaro Valley Pride board member Jorge Guillen, known also as Xinistra, was one of the performers, alongside Rogue Roulette (Zak Keith).

Xinistra and Rogue Roulette, two drag artists who participated in “Drag Story Time” in Watsonville last month, pen an...

Covarrubias said these threats aren’t slowing down efforts to support the LGBTQ+ community. For Covarrubias, who was born and raised in Watsonville, LGBTQ+ visibility is essential for well-being. He recalls growing up knowing he was different but not seeing any representation of LGBTQ+ people — until his parents dropped him off for his first year at UC Santa Barbara.

Raudel Covarrubias looks across the street from his home, on August 14, 2023, in Watsonville.
“I’m doing this because maybe there’s another scared kid in this town who is afraid to be themselves,” Pajaro Valley Pride’s Raudel Covarrubias says.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

“It wasn’t until I got to UCSB, away from this town, away from the opinions, the critiques, the bullying, that I was like, OK, now I can be myself,” he said. “Nobody in college cares who you are, who you want to be, and that was my mindset. So after that I never kept my sexuality a secret. But it was a secret to my town.”

He said does notice a change in Watsonville since he was growing up. When visiting his sister, a senior in high school, he sees more queer visibility than when he was at Watsonville High School from 2010 to 2014.

Now several years back from UCSB, Covarrubias lives with his partner in the house he where grew up. He still sees places for improvement and a need to create spaces where LGBTQ+ people feel welcome.

Covarrubias imagines a young kid like himself growing up in Watsonville who hasn’t seen any LGBTQ+ representation. He said he does this work for those kids.

“I’m no longer that scared kid growing up in this house afraid to be myself,” he said. “I’m doing this because maybe there’s another scared kid in this town who is afraid to be themselves.”

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