Next year, Spokane's Pride Parade will celebrate its 25th anniversary. The region's LGBTQA community has big plans for that, but first they need to rejoice in the 24th annual parade and festival this weekend.
The run-up to Spokane Pride's quarter-century event finds OutSpokane, the organization behind the parade, festival and the Pride Week events leading up to it, continuing to ride the momentum it's been gaining for years now. There's probably no more visible sign of that progress than what you'll see at the head of the 2015 Pride Parade on Saturday in downtown Spokane: a color guard from Fairchild Air Force Base.
"Spokane was only the third city to get an official color guard, and that's pretty exciting," says Michael Jepson, Pride Parade co-chair. "When Pride started, many of the marchers wore bags on their heads out of fear of employers or friends or family seeing them. Now we've reached several thousand people marching in the street."
The theme of this year's festival, taking place in Riverfront Park near the Bloomsday statues, is "Hearts Not Parts," a nod to OutSpokane and other LGBTQA groups' efforts to ally more closely with transgendered people. The family-friendly event features a bevy of kids' activities (including a bouncy house, petting zoo, climbing wall and more) and for the first time, a teen zone. There will be live music, a beer and wine garden and another new addition: an "In Memoriam" wall to celebrate the lives of LGBTQA locals who passed away this past year. The community can bring photos of friends or family to add to the board.
Overall, Jepson says, OutSpokane wants to continue its path toward accessibility for its celebration.
"We're really excited to reach people who 10 years ago wouldn't have even thought about coming. These are people who tell us that their cousin came out last year, or a friend or their grandfather," says Jepson. "But we're fine with getting other people walking by the park and seeing live entertainment, and just wanting to join in."
24th Annual LGBTQA Pride Parade • Sat, June 13, at 11 am • Beginning at Stevens Street and continuing through downtown Spokane • Followed by the Rainbow Festival in Riverfront Park from noon-5:30 pm • Both events are free