Pride event has new meaning after R-74

23rd year for festival brings even more to celebrate as gay community takes to downtown Olympia as husbands, wives

ckrotzer@theolympian.comJune 23, 2013 

Kris and Cathy Irelan of Lacey walked down Legion Way, each holding the tiny hands of their 17-month-old son, Zander.

The couple smiled, appreciating the atmosphere of Olympia’s 23rd annual Capital City Pride Festival on Saturday.

“I like that there are a lot of families here,” Kris said, her wife nodding in agreement.

The women had spent the weekend in Seattle in years past, but said the festivities had gotten too racy to bring their son.

They have been together 13 years and wed at the Thurston County Courthouse at the end of December. Their marriage was made possible when state voters in November approved Referendum 74. Another watershed moment could come this week when the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling on marriage equality.

“My mom called me yesterday saying the Pride event was going to be small because of all the new gay rights and marriages,” Kris said. “I told her this is a time we really should be celebrating our identity and love for everybody.

“You don’t want to let those rights slip away.”

Rainbow flags and the booming of music overtook downtown Olympia on Saturday as hundreds lined up to watch the noon parade during the all-day event. Vendors and booths filled the streets surrounding Sylvester Park as the lyrics of Rihanna’s “We Found Love” and Madonna’s “Express Yourself” filled the air.

The festival is typically two days, but because of budget issues it was consolidated into one this year, organizer Anna Schlect said.

“We had a rough start this year — we were understaffed and under budget,” she said. “We sent an SOS out to the community.”

Financial support and other help poured in as 40 new volunteers and nearly $30,000 in a two-month period helped make the event a reality again this year.

The festival typically costs around $50,000 a year to put on, with double that in donated time.

“That’s the hard thing with small grass-roots community festivals,” Schlect said. “We are not rolling in dough, but the money always rolls in.”

Those involved have risen to the challenge.

“The first Pride, everything could fit into our backpacks when we showed up to do our march and rally,” Schlecht said. “Then it grew and we had to bring things in station wagons. Then I had to buy a utility trailer; now it takes a whole U-Haul, because it’s really like setting up Pride village.

“We have definitely grown over the years, and it’s a lot of fun to drive the U-Haul,” she said.

The goal is to get the festival back to the original two-day event next year. At its peak, Pride attracted thousands to Sylvester Park throughout the day and as many as 15,000 during the parade, which used to be held on Sunday.

The Washington State Patrol estimated 200 people in Saturday’s noon parade with hundreds of onlookers. It began at the Capitol Campus as participants walked or rode down Capital Boulevard toward the park.

Chelsea Krotzer: 360-754-5476 @chelseakrotzer

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