LGBTQ+ community celebrates Pride month at Ironbark

by Andrew Alonzo |

Pride, poetry, live music and hard cider were on the menu Saturday night as about 50 friends and allies gathered to celebrate poetry night at Ironbark Ciderworks. The special Pride month event featured heartfelt verses from poet and event organizer, Gina Duran; special guest cellist Hector “Cello Azul” Oritz; and a live performance from Long Beach band, The Corner House, to add some Latinx flair to the evening.

Beginning the event was Ms. Duran, who read from her book of poems and articulated the bitter realities of an LGBTQ girl’s experience growing up in San Bernardino. Ms. Duran also painted images of the harsh winds and gusts blowing across that same county. After Ms. Duran spoke about some grim truths, she balanced the performance with positive verses from self-titled poems dubbed ‘lunchbox notes.’ Essentially, they were poems Duran wrote around the theme of love—describing them as notes parents would put in their child’s lunchbox.

Toward the end of the set, Duran was accompanied by Cello Azul, who added ominous or euphoric tones to the poetry using a, well, blue cello. Though a simple element, the background music drove home the emotion beneath Duran’s final verses.

Cello Azul and the Corner House band then began tuning their instruments for a special live concert. After an almost yearlong absence due to the pandemic, the band played their original songs including Bliss, Cada Vez, and Cello Azul’s Sácude that got the crowd moving, grooving and clapping along. The band also distributed prizes such as free cider tickets and t-shirts to audience members who shared their performance online.

In the audience watching the performances were Oakland residents Madiha Khan and Daniel Hidalgo, who said they were happy an event like this was happening in the first place in the Inland Empire.

“Having events like these that show support and transparency saying we welcome you into a part of the community, that’s so important to raise awareness,” Madiha Khan said. “It sends a message that there is a space for not only…LGBTQ folks but also folks of intersexual identities that live in this community.”

“As part of the LGBTQ community, one of the reasons I wanted to move out of the I.E.…I never felt that there were that many queer, trans-friendly places in the area or in the city,” Madiha Khan added. “I think just coming back, and when I am visiting and seeing that there are places so welcoming and open to folks of the community, it’s really important.”

Daniel Hidalgo explained that businesses have a responsibility to reflect what the future generation wants to see within and from them in terms of acceptance and tolerance.

Ironbark’s owner and co-founder, Catherine Fleming, who spoke with the COURIER prior to the event, expressed no hesitancy to be the venue for the Pride event. Ms. Fleming explained that the cidery is meant to be a bridge that facilitates conversation and tolerance between patrons, LGBTQ+ or not.

“We need Pride events…it’s scary if you are from a marginalized group. What Pride is doing is reminding everyone that we are here and…it’s okay for us to be here. We’re allowed to be here,” Ms. Fleming said. “A lot of allies come out of Pride. We gain friends and allies. Pride is such a celebration, a happy celebration…that it just draws people in. [Other] people want to celebrate too.”

But aside from hosting events during Pride month, Ms. Fleming said Ironbark continues to offer ways to make the LGBTQ+ community feel included and welcomed. In addition to the gender neutral restrooms and rainbow flags, the cidery’s owners ensure that the message does not go over people’s heads by posting signs and chalkboard notifications reading ‘inclusive space.’
“We are a safe space. We provide a service, we will and we have before protect your rights to be who you are,” Ms. Fleming said. “We’ve had problems, but we will deal with them. We have had problem people [before] that do not accept a particular type of person. But you know that’s why we’re here.”

“There are folks who are 13, 14 [years old] going through the experiences of trying to figure out what their sexual identity is and gender orientation, etcetera,” Madiha Khan said. “Now that there are more events happening in these areas they probably feel more open to just questioning themselves.”

According to Ms. Fleming, the poetry night event raised approximately $185. At the end of the month proceeds will go toward Ms. Duran’s charity, the Inland Empire Hope Collective. The charity works with LGBTQ+ youth and homeless individuals to develop positive habits and make them feel comfortable in their skin. Proceeds from the event also went toward Joshua Home LGBTQ Safe Haven.

During the remaining weekends in June, Ironbark will host more LGBTQ+ themed events including a comedy night event on Friday, June 18 and a movie night event on Saturday, June 19.

For more information about Ironbark Ciderworks and their events, visit their website at or call them at 909-447-5225. The cidery is located at 1420 North Claremont Boulevard, Suite 107B, adjacent to Hair of the Dog.



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