With a timely theme of "Pride Unites the World," San Diego's annual celebration of the LGBT community returns Friday through Sunday. Highlights of Pride's 2016 festivities include the parade, which winds through Hillcrest along University and Sixth avenues, and a two-day music festival in Balboa Park .
This year, event organizers are thrilled to have a modern-day pop star among the hundreds of musicians who will perform live on multiple stages at the Saturday/Sunday festival.
"We're excited to headline Kesha," says San Diego Pride's executive director, Stephen Whitburn.
Kesha has 31 million Facebook fans, 2 million Instagram followers and a roster of chart-topping hits.
New to the Pride this year is the Rainbow Zone, an exhibit area where nonprofit organizations providing services to the LGBT community can showcase their initiatives for free. The public also can check out the Art of Pride gallery, featuring works by LGBT artists. DJs, food trucks and vendor booths round out the weekend's offerings.
Attendance at the July 16 parade, which is expected to draw more than 100,000 spectators, is free. General admission to the musical festival costs $20 per day in advance. A $120 VIP pass grants access to food/drinks, comfortable seating and upgraded amenities.
Here's a peek at what else promises to help make Pride fabulous.
Pride of Hillcrest Block Party
Fabulous Hillcrest will host its fifth annual Pride of Hillcrest Block Party, a high-energy celebration near the Pride Flag on Normal Street. 6 to 11 p.m. Friday. Tickets start at $20; 21 and up. fabuloushillcrest.com
Unite! Music Festival
The Unite! Music Festival paints a diverse sonic and visual tapestry designed to bring together the entire LGBT community and its allies. Five events - to be held at Fluxx and House of Blues in the Gaslamp Quarter, Quartyard in East Village, and Spin nightclub near Mission Hills - will stretch over what's being billed as "three days that will rock your world." 10 p.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Monday. Tickets start at $40. umfest.com
Pride 5K Run/Walk
Front Runners and Walkers San Diego presents its annual Pride 5K, which follows the parade route before the parade begins. Warm-up begins at 9 a.m. at University Avenue and Centre Street. 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Race participation starts at $35. frwsd.org
A free community event, the 1.1-mile parade begins at the Hillcrest Pride Flag at University Avenue and Normal Street, proceeds west along University Avenue, and then turns south at Sixth Avenue toward Balboa Park. 11 a.m. sdpride.org
San Diego Pride Music Festival
Pop star Kesha headlines the two-day festival, which showcases hundreds of live performances on multiple stages around Marston Point in Balboa Park. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Tickets start at $20 per day. sdpride.org
2016 Pride highlights
? U.S. Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning - the first-ever LGBT leader of a U.S. military service branch - will be the keynote speaker at the Spirit of Stonewall Rally at 6 p.m. Friday and will lead the military contingent in the parade as an honorary grand marshal.
? The San Diego Padres will have a contingent in the parade for the first time, and Padres CEO Mike Dee will speak at the Spirit of Stonewall Rally.
? California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will be an honorary grand marshal in the parade.
? The Pride Youth Marching Band will perform in the parade and at the rally.
? In addition to the main ticketed area, the San Diego Pride Music Festival will have a free area for the first time. It will have '80s and '90s music, the Art of Pride gallery, a family picnic area, community information booths, food trucks and more.
Pride on the Pier
Broadway Pier comes to (night)life with DJs, a laser show and sexy go-gos. Noon to 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets start at $69.
Flawles Pride Pool Party
Organizers of this pool party at Rooftop600 at Andaz San Diego "believe in a community of amazing women that want more." Expect DJs, music, magic ... and a few men, too. Noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. Tickets start at $40. flawles.com
The Zoo Party
Go wild as Pride takes over the San Diego Zoo with DJs, dancing and other delights. 4 to 11 p.m. Sunday. Tickets start at $110 and include zoo admission. billhardtpresents.com
Lopez writes for Pacific San Diego magazine, a publication of The San Diego Union-Tribune.