Saturday, May 15, 2010

JetBlue flies pink for Gay Pride Weekend

(Photo: Jeff Gritchen - The Press-Telegram)

LONG BEACH - Fueled-up on free champagne and eager for a weekend of revelry, 110 passengers flew into Long Beach aboard a specially chartered JetBlue flight Friday honoring Gay Pride Weekend.

The traditionally quick and uneventful flight from San Francisco to Long Beach was transformed into a party replete with pink cocktails, pink cupcakes, flight attendants' uniforms in pink and 90 minutes of entertainment from comedian Pam Ann.

The idea of a JetPride flight comes as the New York-based carrier has grown gradually more involved in the city's second-largest annual event, which draws some 70,000 people to Long Beach annually, second in size only to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

JetBlue has been a Pride Weekend sponsor for five years, but this year offered round-trip tickets for $79 and numbered its Friday morning flight No. 1969 in honor of the famous 1969 Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village, N.Y., which began the modern gay rights movement.

"It's just our way of showing a little bit of support for Pride Weekend and letting people know of our presence in two of the country's most gay-friendly communities, San Francisco and Long Beach," said Mark Rogers, a JetBlue marketing manager. "We're always looking for ways to continue outreach."

JetBlue has long operated daily trips between the cities, but noticed an uptick during Pride Weekend in recent years.

Long Beach Pride Co-President Sergio Macias estimates 76 percent of this weekend's revelers will visit from outside Long Beach, with about 13 percent coming from outside California.

An economic study estimates the event, now in its 27th year, generates about

$10 million of direct spending in Long Beach and more than $20 million for the regional economy.

Weekend events include a festival from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. today and Sunday at Marina Green Park and Rainbow Lagoon along Shoreline Drive, and a parade kicking off at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Temple Avenue and Ocean Boulevard.

(Kristopher Hanson - Press Telegram)

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