Capital City Pride Festival enters a new era

Contributing writerJune 20, 2013 

The 2012 Capital City Pride Parade made its way from the Capitol campus to downtown Olympia with a wide array of local groups and organization's participating, including state Rep. Laurie Jinkins, who was the parade's grand marshal. This year's parade is noon Saturday.

STEVE BLOOM — Staff Photographer Buy Photo

  • CAPITAL CITY PRIDE FESTIVAL

    What: Olympia’s annual parade and party is hosted by and for the area’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and allied community and its supporters.

    When: Festival from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; parade at noon Saturday

    Where: Sylvester Park in downtown Olympia. The parade begins on the Capitol steps, heads north on Capitol Way, turns east on Fifth Avenue and then heads south on Washington Street to the park.

    Admission: Free

    More information: capitalcitypride.net

    HIGHLIGHTS

    Friday

    7:30 p.m. Kickoff party at the Urban Onion, 116 Legion Way, Olympia

    Saturday

    11 a.m.: Dance party with DJ Fury

    Noon: Parade beginning at the Capitol dome and ending in Sylvester Park.

    1 p.m.: Kim Archer Band

    2 p.m.: Welcome speeches and Pride Day Award presentation

    2:30 p.m.: Marlayna McBride & The Jakettes

    3 p.m.: Stonewall Youth Talent Show

    3:30 p.m.: 2013 Pride Idol Winner Romeo Jay Jacinto

    3:45 p.m.: The Fabulous Downey Brothers

    4:30 p.m.: New Queens on the Block

    6 p.m.: Red Ribbon Prevention Gayla at the Olympia Ballroom/Urban Onion, 116 Legion Way, Olympia; $60; mpoweroly.org

    7 p.m.: Youth Pride Dance hosted by Stonewall Youth at The Northern, 414 1/2 Legion Way, Olympia; free; olympiaallages.org

Saturday’s Capital City Pride Festival is the first since Washington voters upheld marriage equality. Organizers agree that’s worthy of celebration — but add that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people still face plenty of challenges.

“As a gay man, I’m very concerned about issues other than marriage,” said Matthew Shrader, the festival’s booth coordinator. “I want to get married some day, but in order to get married, I have to be alive and healthy. HIV prevention services are being cut throughout the state.”

“Some people might say we are post-GLBT rights,” said festival co-chairwoman Anna Schlecht. “I’d say we’re in a period of virtual equality. We have the laws, but we don’t have the full experience of equality yet.

“There are still issues that our community faces: bullying in schools, job discrimination that’s hard to prove, and a society that has many laws in place that people are still getting used to,” she added.

Marriage equality is having an effect on the festival, though. The good news about marriage for gay men and lesbians might be one reason the festival has shrunk this year. The main events are on one day instead of two, and there’s no beer garden.

“We lost a couple of key volunteers,” Schlecht said. “We wondered if in this time of virtual equality, people feel that they don’t need Pride anymore.”

Organizers sent out a plea for volunteers and got a huge response, she said. “We got a whole influx — 40 people. It’s older parents and grandparents from PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). It’s very young people who are part of the drag-show community. It’s people in their teens who are participating with their parents.

“It feels like one of the first years that we have the full spectrum of the community — all ages, all races, all walks of life.”

And this year, Schlecht sees a lot more support — and smiles — from the community at large.

“More of the community celebrates with us,” she said. “We have people slow down and walk by while we’re putting our rainbow flags up around town, and they join with us in celebration. It’s people from all walks of life. Some of them don’t seem like the kind of people who would have had a friendly word for us five or 10 years ago, but now they do. I feel so much more a part of my community and so much more accepted.”

The festival has come a long way since its beginnings as a political rally, she said.

“It’s not quite the fighting-for-the-right-to-exist festival it started off as,” she said. “It’s evolved over the years to be a cultural festival for the GLBT community much like Oktoberfest is for German-Americans. It’s a way that you can invite the greater community to join in celebrating the culture of your community.

“The only difference is that we’re the ones with the drag queens,” she said. “We don’t have the rides that Lakefair has, but we have the drag queens.”

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