Cypress celebrates first-ever ‘Pride and Diversity’ community picnic

The colors of Pride and Diversity in Cypress. Photo by Macy Meinhardt

Organizers say the first-ever “Pride and Diversity” community-sponsored picnic was held Sunday on the Civic Center lawn bringing a rainbow of hope for Cypress residents longing to see the city’s diversity efforts materialized.

Inspired by the city’s May 9th proclamation in support of diversity and inclusion, residents amplified the council’s call to action by organizing the city’s first annual pride and diversity picnic.

“We might have started the most important movement in Cypress,” said event organizer Maria Campos-Krekos, in response to the positive ripple effect this event will bring towards future inclusionary efforts.

Citizens of all races, gender, colors, religions, sexes, ages, neurotypes and cultures were welcomed with open arms as the first public pride attendees. Despite being uncharted territory for the city, the picnic’s positive turnout and feedback reaffirm the demand for a more inclusive Cypress.

As residents enjoyed an afternoon of live music, food trucks, guest speakers, and family activities, the harmonious atmosphere created a safe space for attendees to listen, learn, and show support for marginalized groups.

Support booths including those representing neurodivergent, immigrant and LGBTQ+ groups bordered the civic lawn walkway offering free resources and education for anyone of interest.

Inclusive organizations from surrounding cities such as The Community Congregational United Church of Christ were also among the several booths stationed at the event.
Church organizations are one of the many institutions known to polarize diverse communities in the Orange County area, specifically members of LGBTQ+ groups.

Pastor Sam Pullen of the CCUCC, Los Alamitos’ “open and affirming” church, hopes people in the Cypress community know that his organization “offers a safe and welcoming place for people who have been rejected.”

Meanwhile, although the city is largely conservative, Carolyn Balagot believes Cypress has greater space for diversity than it alludes to.

“Our community is much more diverse than it appears,” said Balagot, who along with Campos-Krekos took the initiative to serve as event coordinator for the monumental occasion.

“And obviously we were right, because look at all the people that are here,” said Balagot, claiming the event quickly “snowballed” after being advertised on the city’s community forum.

Residents on social media were swift to show support, offering to bring items such as tables, chairs, and power cords to the community-run event.

Councilmember Scott Minikus–whose term will be up for the November 2022 election–also volunteered to help with community effort by donating funds for bouncy houses and Civic Center permits.

Amid the exponential growth in tension between Council members and residents, flyers for the event prompted attendees to only come with the agenda of an “open heart”, suggesting all matters of concern to be left away from the event’s positive energy.

(Cypress’ first Pride & Diversity Picnic flyer, advertised on Cypress Community Group Facebook page on Friday, June 10, 2022.)

Fortunately, it seemed everyone in attendance adhered to the sunshine and rainbows only policy— event organizers reported they were delightfully “surprised” to see no outside protesters.

Councilmember Frances Marquez affirmed this, describing the event as a “loving day” while she engaged with citizens, parents and members of Cypress’ youth.

With the exception of Councilmember Jon Peat, Marquez was joined by the rest of Cypress council leaders to show the diverse community’s support.

Councilwoman Frances Marquez with residents at the Cypress Pride and Diversity Picnic.
Photo by Macy Meinhardt

Given three weeks to coordinate the entire event Campos-Krekos beamed with pride as she watched the blossoming event from a distance.

“I don’t know how we [Balagot and I] did it,” Campos-Krekos humbly remarked.
It takes a village indeed and based on feedback it seems that the city’s first annual Pride and Diversity Picnic only has room to grow from here.

“We’ve had a lot of people come up to us and say they want to be involved next time community involvement and participation, we’re excited,” said Balagot.
Until next summer, Campos-Krekos offers advice on how the community can community to support its diverse members.

“The community can start by listening. By sitting side by side with each other. By asking community members what can be changed for the better. By taking diversity training. Our goal is for all community members to feel seen and safe. Everyone.”