LGBTQ+ Friends & Family Day returns to Arizona Renaissance Festival

Jeremy Beren

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Courtesy of Gregg Edelman

By Jeremy Beren/NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ

(Pinal County, Ariz.) — Since 1989, the Arizona Renaissance Festival in Gold Canyon has thrilled scores of patrons with its themed events and unique cuisine in addition to its varied attractions — such as medieval comedy routines and even sword-swallowing.

Saturday, March 26 will mark the comeback of LGBTQ+ Friends and Family Day to the Renaissance Festival after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted cancellations the past two years. It is an especially important weekend for Gregg Edelman, the owner of Phoenix-based Exposed Studio and Gallery and the self-described "proud dad" of LGBTQ+ Friends and Family Day. He spoke with NewsBreak about the event's origins and its longevity over the past two decades.

"I started the event back in 2000, when I was general manager for Echo Magazine," Edelman said. "What I wanted to do was — Disneyland had Gay Days, and I thought 'why don't we create something here like that?' And the Renaissance Festival was the perfect vehicle to do that.

"I thought 'yeah, this could make a great annual event.' The LGBTQ community is ever-changing, and the Renaissance Festival is very supportive of the LGBTQ community, especially since a lot of their employees also identify as LGBTQ."

The Disneyland inspiration continues to course through LGBTQ+ Day even two decades on. Attendees are encouraged to wear a red shirt, as they do at the Anaheim-based amusement park, and costumes are also available to rent.

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(Source: Getty Images)

But Edelman has also helped to facilitate an arrangement with Bears of the West for a bus trip to LGBTQ+ Day each year. For a $50 fee, passengers can choose to be picked up and transported to Gold Canyon for the day. The bus comes complete with food, drink, and entertainment, including a drag queen.

"If you don't want to drive, you can go with the bears," Edelman said.

Edelman explained how LGBTQ+ Day's inclusiveness and the judgment-free atmosphere it promotes have remained the same throughout the years, even as the community has changed. Scooters and wheelchairs are readily available for attendees who have special needs. This is what gives him the greatest pride when talking about the event.

"It's just a fun day. It's a good, positive day to get out and just enjoy yourself," Edelman said. "Come as you are, relax, enjoy ... the food there is amazing.

"It's been my baby since the beginning. I've watched her grow up, and now she's old enough to drink."

The Arizona Renaissance Festival runs through April 3. Visit the Festival's website for complete details.

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Jeremy is a freelance journalist covering health, energy, labor, and local politics. Reach him at jeremy.beren@newsbreak.com.

Phoenix, AZ
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