A week after the largest mass shooting in United States history left 49 people dead at a gay nightclub in Orlando, there’s fear. There’s grief. And there’s Pride.
This weekend’s Capital City Pride is happening as usual, although the tone in the week leading up to the parade has been very different from the revelry of the past couple of years.
“What happened in Orlando underscores the hate and discrimination and the fear that LGBTQ people still face,” said Anna Schlecht, festival chairwoman. “Our festival started as a protest and evolved into a multifaceted beautiful celebration, and both of those things are still essential.
“That’s why we’re going to press on. We have to stand up against hate in Orlando. We have to stand up against discrimination. We also have to have something that we’re fighting for; we have to have something that represents the community that we can build together.”
That’s what the festival and parade aim to do. Unlike some of its big-city cousins, Olympia’s Pride is a place for families, and those who attend the festival observe that it’s at least as popular with straight allies as it is with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
We also have to have something that we’re fighting for; we have to have something that represents the community that we can build together.
Anna Schlecht, Capital City Pride chairwoman
Capital City Pride has live performances, bounce houses and crafts for children, and lots of rainbows and glitter.
All of that will happening as usual this weekend. Organizers don’t plan to change or add to the event in response to the killings in Orlando.
“We don’t need to highlight what happened,” Schlecht said. “Each performer, each speaker, each volunteer is going to be acknowledging it throughout the entire weekend. It’s going to be in all of our minds and all of our hearts.”
Some in the community are feeling understandable fear in the wake of what happened in Orlando along with Sunday’s arrest of a man heading for the Los Angeles Pride event with weapons and ammunition.
“There is so much hate being stirred up right now,” said Lynn Grotsky of Unity in the Community, dedicated to building connections among diverse groups in Olympia.
Unity in the Community, along with Capital City Pride and Interfaith Works, organized a candlelight vigil Sunday night.
“One of the things that came up was the sense of safety and how a lot of that has been lost, at least for a while,” said Grotsky, co-founder of Pizza Klatch, which supports LGBTQ and questioning youth. “If it could happen anywhere else, it could happen here.”
Pride organizers are working with police and public officials to try to ensure safety, Schlecht said.
“In the wake of a mass shooting, people are scared,” she said, “but I hope this is the largest Pride we have ever had. I think people will be looking over their shoulders, but they’re also going to be hugging each other.
“The best thing we can do is come together and be together and show that our community bonds, our relationships as friends, family, co-workers and neighbors, are far stronger than hate.”
She’s encouraged by the outpouring of support she and the Pride organization have felt this week.
Governments and businesses are flying rainbow flags at half-mast. Schlecht has been busy all week taking calls from people offering their support.
“When horrible things like this happen, it’s devastating,” she said, “but it also brings good people out in force.”
Capital City Pride Festival
What: Olympia’s 26th annual parade and party is hosted by and for the area’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and allied community.
When: Festival from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday; parade at noon Sunday.
Where: The festival is in Heritage Park in downtown Olympia. The parade begins on the Capitol Campus and ends at the park.
Also: The festival kicks off with a street party at 7:30 p.m. Friday (June 17) at 109 Legion Way SW, Olympia, with entertainment, speeches and a lighting ceremony at 9:20 p.m. The evening wraps up with a dance party at 10 p.m. at Jake’s on Fourth, 311 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia.
11 a.m.: DJ Aaron Fury.
Noon: Opening song sung by Xavier Toscano.
12:05 p.m.: Welcome with Jacob Atom and Jadys Diamond.
12:15 p.m.: Terroncé (drag).
12:30 p.m.: Yodelady (Americana).
1 p.m.: Speeches.
1:30 p.m.: Pride Pageant winners.
2 p.m.: Dr. Lauren (theatrical comedy).
2:30 p.m.: Xavier Toscano (dance music).
3 p.m.: Dance break with Zumbaya.
3:30 p.m.: The Bridge (rap and spoken word).
4 p.m.: Whitney Mongé (alternative soul).
4:30 p.m.: The Jakettes (drag).
5:30 p.m.: Interfaith service.
11 a.m.: DJ Aaron Fury.
11:30 a.m.: Pre-parade show on Capitol Way with Toscano and dancers.
Noon: Parade from Capitol Campus to Heritage Park.
1 p.m.: The Kim Archer Band (dance, rhythm and blues).
2 p.m.: Awards.
2:25 p.m.: Miss Fawn Thai (classical Thai dance).
2:30 p.m.: Kim Archer (acoustic).
3 p.m.: Toscano and dancers.
3:30 p.m.: Caravan of Glam (drag, vaudeville).
4:30 p.m.: Closing ceremony.