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  • McFarlane Promotions

Pride and 1 Million Viewers Adapt to a Pandemic.


The devastating effects of the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic have been felt globally and created irreparable damage on the hospitality industry. Our company has seen the cancellation of over 25 large events for this year alone, and we have found that while people are saddened by the loss of events and experiences, the rippling harm on local organizations is not publicly understood. McFarlane Promotions specializes in community events produced by local non-profits as main fundraising initiatives to support their community contributions. When one of these events is cancelled, it results in program cuts, reduced services and sometimes even charity closure.

This Spring, San Diego Pride made the decision to cancel the annual Parade and Festival which has hosted over 140,000 people each year for 45 years. This one weekend a year gives the LGBTQ+ community a space of freedom to celebrate love, unity and individuality. It is also a weekend where attendees have access to education on the vital services provided by dozens of non-profits and serves as the main fundraising event for the San Diego Pride organization and their year round programs.

In times of global uncertainty, we are all called to pivot and the decision was made rather than to cancel San Diego Pride in its entirety, the celebration would be hosted online as San Diego Pride Live. This 7+ hour virtual experience highlighted the history of San Diego Pride, Community Partners, volunteer stories, entertainment performances and more. Sponsor commercials were scheduled in to honor the contributions of loyal supporters and donations were accepted live.

This standout dynamic digital celebration garnered over 1 million live views and raised over $50,000 in donations during the program. A mix of pre-recorded and live shot content was used providing the right balance of dependable b-roll with energetic and interactive live content. San Diego Pride Live was deemed an overwhelming success but the transition to virtual was not the only challenge this event faced.


During the planning process the regulations of local and state officials for safe reopening was continually evolving. The original plan for San Diego Pride Live was to have approximately (4) 5-minute live shots per hour with the location of those live shots transitioning from Hillcrest businesses along what would have been the Parade Route to the Festival grounds. Our team at McFarlane Promotions worked with local venues to confirm the spaces, infrastructure requirements and technical needs. We had back-up internet and data plan options for each location to handle broadcast requirements. We thought we had everything buttoned up and ready to go…until we got word that the Governor was about to make another announcement…

Five days prior to Pride Live, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a rollback on reopening plans, closing restaurants for indoor dining and offices for noncritical work sectors. This meant for Pride Live that the over 25 live streaming segments could no longer happen as planned as venue partners were not fully open and it was no longer appropriate to have scheduled cast in public places. A further challenge came that afternoon when we were informed the donated filming and broadcast services being provided by Viejas Casino & Resort were also not possible as they could not send staff off casino premises.

Faced with another set of challenges we rolled with the punches and moved to Plan C? maybe D? (we lost track). All live shots were broadcast from the individual homes of the cast except for the Host who was in a secure outside area at a prominent Hillcrest business, Inside Out. We worked with the filming/broadcast crew to run the technical side of the broadcast from the Casino using broadcast technology that had never before been used for a streaming event of this magnitude.


We ran tests and adjusted everywhere as needed…When the software wouldn’t allow as many people into the backend at once as we had planned, we switched to Google Hangouts…When internet connections were poor we changed devices, restarted and hardwired to new sources. Event planning has always been about expecting the challenges that will arise and being judged by your ability to master them. In the current circumstances, we have adjusted to predicting new challenges and figuring out how to solve them at the same time software is being developed, regulations are evolving daily and we are all adapting to the ever-changing ‘new normal’.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenna Thompson


Jenna is a mountain based Yogi with a love for veggie focused foods. When she's not in Warrior Pose you can find her spending time with her Avalanche Rescue Dog Luna with a Matcha Latte in hand!


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