It began with thunderous roars of revving motorcycles just before noon Sunday on the Capitol Campus.
For nearly an hour, the streets of downtown Olympia were filled with music, dancing, applause and cheers as participants in the Capital City Pride parade made their way down Capitol Way South to Sylvester Park.
The parade was a rainbow of, well, rainbows. There were rainbow-colored banners, flags, wigs, hats, shirts and balloons.
And, yes, there was even a standard-size poodle that sported a froufrou hairdo with Pride-inspired stripes and puffs.
In its 20th year, the parade was part of a two-day celebration for South Sound’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community and its allies.
“It’s getting together and having support,” said spectator Lysa Haynes, 26, of Lacey. “It’s awesome.”
The parade featured nearly 50 groups, including Dykes on Bikes, PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Olympia, South Sound high school queer-straight alliance groups and local politicians campaigning for office.
Members of Samba Olywa wore pink, feathery outfits and grooved to drums, triangles, tambourines and other percussion instruments.
“I love dancing in the streets,” said Heather Hilf, 42, of Olympia. “And I’m a big fan of pride and equality for everyone.”
Additionally, dozens of people from South Sound’s faith community – including the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Temple Beth Hatfiloh, St. Michael’s Catholic Church and the United Church of Christ – marched in the parade.
Some carried banners such as “Gay is OK,” “Love all no exception” and “Standing on this side of love.”
“I’m really thrilled that the event has become more than just a gay event; it’s become a community celebration of diversity,” said parade coordinator Roger Cummings.
Organizers estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 people turned out for the parade, according to Capital City Pride business manager Anna Schlecht.
“It’s the most we have ever had,” she said.
Capital City Pride was established in 1991, when about 150 people marched from Marathon Park to the Capitol Campus to rally for gay rights.
“In those days, it was a political action,” Cummings said. “We were out to make a point.”
Co-founder Sidney Evans said times and attitudes were far different.
Back then, many of the parade marchers feared for their safety, and some went as far as covering their faces with masks so they couldn’t be recognized.
“The city was really hesitant of us marching through town,” said Evans, 50, of Olympia.
“I remember there was controversy on what route the parade could actually take.”
Capital City Pride is now a festival with an entertainment stage, food and vendors. It’s become the second-largest Pride event in the state; Seattle Pride Parade, slated for June 26, is the biggest.
“For me, I think it’s more of just being proud of who you are, and being able to live and not feel fear or threatened,” Evans said.
“It’s kind of heartwarming to see what’s actually taken place over the years, and to see where it’s at now.”