Pride marches and parades began as protests and grew into spectacles — often including folks in outlandish outfits, leather fetish gear and various states of undress.
Olympia’s Capital City Pride, though, has long aimed to combine activism and glamour with family fun — and more and more pride events across the country are following suit.
“It’s not exactly the LGBT Lakefair,” said Anna Schlecht, festival chairwoman, “but it’s far more geared toward broad participation than some of the other pride events.”
The festival does have something in common with Capital Lakefair, though: This year, it’s moving from Sylvester Park to Heritage Park along the shores of Capitol Lake.
“We’re recognizing that we’re a big festival,” said Schlecht, who’s been involved with the festival and parade since it began in 1991. “We have grown and we need the space to accommodate that growth.”
The festival features lots of live music, drag performances, information booths, vendors and a kids’ area with bounce houses, crafts and activities.
And then there’s Sunday’s parade, which sounds, well, not that different than the Lakefair Parade.
It’s definitely not as laid-back as the Procession of the Species, which welcomes anyone to join in at the last minute.
“People have to register in advance,” Schlecht said. “We’re celebrating LGBTQ people and allies, and we want to make sure that’s who’s in our parade.”
So who’s in the parade?
“We have some of the traditional parade stuff, like fire trucks and elected officials,” she said. “We have faith organizations. We have motorcycles. We have floats.
“We have everything you’d expect from a small-city parade — except a lot more fabulous, with rainbows and glitter.”
This year, the parade also has Samba OlyWa, the drum and dance group that wraps up the Procession every year. (And yes, the group will be sporting rainbow accessories.)
Although there are still definitely wild and wacky pride parades out there — particularly in cities like Los Angeles and New York — including kids and families has become a trend at pride events across the country.
Last year, Oakland, California, had its own small parade, keeping things strictly family-friendly in contrast to the spectacle happening in San Francisco. Although, even in San Francisco, there’s a Family Garden where kids can get their faces painted and make crafts.
At the Dallas Pride Parade, organizers a few years ago began strictly enforcing longstanding rules against nudity and sexual displays.
“We can be gay without being naked,” parade organizer Michael Doughman told the Huffington Post in 2013.
For Capital City Pride organizers, fitting into Olympia’s culture has long been a goal — and Schlecht feels they’ve achieved that. Polling shows that more than half of those who attend the Olympia festival aren’t members of the LGBT community. And such mainstream businesses as Group Health and Tag’s Trophies are among the event’s sponsors this year.
“We are more a part of the broader Olympia experience,” she said.
Except — again — with a lot more sparkle.
“We would love to be a robust mashup of Pride, Lakefair and Procession of the Species,” Schlecht said. “We want to have everything that is quintessentially Olympia, all rolled up in an LGBT wrapper with lots of rainbows and glitter.”