Capital City Pride to feature drag performance, music -- and the Salvation Army

‘Live.Love.Be’ theme of 2018 Capital Pride Festival

Spotty weather didn't dampen the spirits of several thousand participants and spectators at Capital City Pride Parade on Sunday June 10, 2018.
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Spotty weather didn't dampen the spirits of several thousand participants and spectators at Capital City Pride Parade on Sunday June 10, 2018.

Capital City Pride is back this year with familiar fan favorites: drag queens, comedy, music and a parade — as well as a first-time addition.

The Olympia Salvation Army, an evangelical charity organization and local shelter, will participate in Olympia’s 28th annual Pride celebration for the first time ever.

“The Salvation Army has taken a little longer than some organizations, but now strongly values diversity and wants to serve all parts of our community,” said Anna Schlecht, one of the original founders of Capital City Pride.

Mark Stearns, director of the Salvation Army Olympia Corps Community Center, said the organization decided to participate in Pride this year because they were approached by a member of the Pride community and encouraged to reach out to the organization and get involved.

“Part of our mission statement is to serve all without discrimination, so we are very happy to participate in this event, to show unity with our neighbors,” Stearns said. “That’s who the Salvation Army is.”

Pride organizers see this as a positive change in the landscape of service providers, according to Schlecht. The Salvation Army was the first shelter to sign up to be in the parade, and now other local shelters have followed their lead.

“They started a beautiful thing,” Schlecht said. “All the shelters are going to be in the parade, showing that their services are available to all.”

And shelter accessibility for the LGBTQ community is absolutely necessary Schlecht said.

“The most grim stat is that 40 percent of unsheltered youth identify as LGBT,” she said.

Although this will be a first for Capital City Pride, other Salvation Army branches across the country have previously participated in Pride events in cities such as Chicago and San Francisco. The army says it is committed to serving the LGBTQ community through shelter, job training, and help with substance abuse and food insecurity. In recent years, the national organization has aimed to answer common questions about the group’s past stances on LGBTQ rights.

Stearns said he hasn’t heard any community feedback — positive or negative — about the army’s plan to participate in Pride this year.

“We don’t want to be a standout, we want to be a neighbor,” Stearns said. “There is no one neighbor that is more important than the other, and so no feedback is good.”

The army will walk in the parade, do a meet and greet and hand out gift bags and candy to festival-goers. Stearns said he sees the organization’s involvement as an opportunity to be a more involved part of the community.

“You never know with this being the first time, the reaction could be unique,” Stearns said. “But we are part of Olympia and all of our neighbors are part of Olympia, and it’s an honor to be with them.”

Reflecting on the festival’s history, Schlecht recalled the first Pride rally held in Olympia in 1991 — a time when members of the LGBTQ community were made to feel unwelcome and fearful. She spoke about how far the organization and the community have come.

“Twenty-eight years later, we have the Salvation Army, a conservative, faith-based organization being part of our Pride parade. We have all state agencies flying rainbow flags,” she said.

“And while flying a rainbow flag doesn’t make everything better, it sure goes a long way toward showing that LGBT people are part of the community.”

Pride festivities kick off at 11 a.m. Sunday with dance music and a drag star showcase. This year’s festival coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a series of confrontations between police officers and LGBTQ activists in New York often credited as the birth of the Gay Rights Movement.

The festival’s big event — the Pride Parade — starts at noon at the State Capitol and will proceed to Heritage Park. Viewing opportunities will be along Legion and Capitol Way. The Department of Enterprise Services has issued a permit for the festival, as organizers estimate that 5,000 people will attend and impact traffic and parking on the Capitol Campus.

After the parade reaches Heritage Park, the festival activities will commence. Highlights scheduled from 1 to 6 p.m. include: R&B and rap performances; four drag performances; comedy by El Sanchez; and presentation of Pride awards throughout.

Capital City Pride festival

  • What: The annual festival highlighted by a noon parade from the Capitol to Heritage Park.
  • Where: The State Capitol and Heritage Park in Olympia
  • When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
  • Admission: Free
  • More information: https://www.capitalcitypride.net/
  • A Saturday kickoff: A free Block Party Drag Festival will take place from 1-5 p.m. near Cryptatropa Bar, on Jefferson Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues in downtown Olympia. The performances and nonprofit booths are for all ages.