Capital City Pride — part rainbow-striped festival, part statement of the continuing need to work for the rights of the LGBTQ community — happens Friday and Saturday, one week after activists in Olympia and elsewhere took to the streets for the Equality March.
In this era of protests, some younger activists have questioned the relevance of traditional Pride celebrations, but there is room for both, said Gina Thompson, chairperson of Capital City Pride, and longtime organizer Anna Schlecht, who this year is volunteering behind the scenes.
“Younger LGBTQ radical activists see Capital City Pride as Lakefair with drag queens,” Schlecht said in a phone interview last week. “They want to retain the spirit of the Stonewall rebellion, and it shouldn’t be either/or. it should be both/and. That’s what we have this year.”
This weekend’s Pride events are compressed into two days instead of three, with an opening celebration Friday night and a parade and festival Saturday. That change makes the festival more sustainable as a new generation takes the lead. Thompson has volunteered with the festival for five years and organized the parade for three.
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But all of the familiar elements remain: a colorful parade, music, speeches, a bounce house and other children’s activities, a food court — and, yes, lots of drag queens.
Booths and parade entries will be plentiful despite the shorter schedule, and Thompson expects a big crowd. Last year’s Pride drew about 20,000.
“Pride in Olympia has been getting larger and larger every year, and I think that will continue as our communities increase in size,” she said.
They say there is still much work to be done to advance the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community. One symbol of that: The organization is selling shirts emblazoned “Resist” along with ones bearing the Capital City Pride logo.
“The word ‘resist’ reflects Pride’s role in continuing to fight for LGBTQ rights,” Schlect said.
“There is a lot to resist,” Thompson said. “Our theme this year is to resist hate and celebrate love.”
Thompson sees power in both. Pride is a place where a community’s identity is celebrated, much as families celebrate at a reunion, she said.
“My first experience with a Pride festival was in Seattle when I was still in high school,” she said. “I don’t know that I was out all of the way, and it was a very powerful experience just being aware that there were so many people who identified (as LGBTQ) and wanted to gather. I was raised pretty conservative, with a strong faith-based upbringing, and that was pretty much my first exposure to this community.”
That’s a role Pride festivals still play, she added.
“One of my parade volunteers last year was a young person,” she said. “I think they were 14 at the time, and their response to our Capital City Pride reminded me of my own first experience. That has fueled me to keep going.”
Capital City Pride Festival
What: Olympia's 27th annual parade and party is hosted by and for the area's gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer community and its supporters.
When: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, with pre-parade entertainment at 11, parade at noon and festival beginning at 1 p.m.
Where: Heritage Park, Water Street and Fifth Avenue, Olympia; pre-parade show at Capitol Way and Legion Way; parade from the Capitol Campus to Heritage Park
More information: capitalcitypride.net