Arts & Entertainment

Organizers gear up for Tacoma Pride Festival

Summer is here, and as Washingtonians know, that means lots of rainbows.

Promotional poster by Travis Pranger

The Tacoma Pride Festival is coming up, with events happening all over Tacoma from July 10 to July 21.

The event is organized by a volunteer committee. This is the second year they’ve been working together. Anyone can get involved by contacting the Rainbow Center.

Tacoma’s pride festival takes place during July as opposed to June because of a need to be in sync with pride events throughout the world and to try not to complete with other events around the region, according to Tacoma Pride committee member Benjii Bittle. Bittle is Deputy Executive Director at the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts. He said that the festival is coordinated with international organization Inner Pride.

This year there will be an emphasis on marriage equality, specifically a push to spread the word about Referendum 74 coming up in November. If voters approve it, marriage equality would become a part of Washington state law. Bittle mentioned that Pierce County votes will be critical to whether the measure will be won or lost.

Chalk art on the sidewalk outside The Rainbow Center. Photo by Michael Fitzgerald.

No same-sex marriage equality effort in the U.S. has ever passed a popular vote. Once in Arizona, a ban on same-sex marriage did not pass the popular vote, then years later a ban did pass.

Out in the Park is the biggest event of the festival, taking place on July 14 in downtown Tacoma on Broadway between 9th and 11th. City Council member Ryan Mello said that they were expecting about 7,000 people. The usual food vendors and other businesses will be there. The event is all-ages (no alcohol) and families are being encouraged to attend. Bittle noted that based on last year there is a need for hundreds of volunteers.

Our university plans on setting up a booth at the event, and members of the Queer Student Union may help staff.

Oasis Youth Center is hosting a barbecue at 5 p.m. after Out in the Park. Dinner is $50 with a $25 dessert afterwards, all proceeds benefit Oasis Youth Center.

Host of The Mix 4th Annual Block Party, J. Daniel Elquist. Photo by Andy Cox.

The Mix’s Block Party is another big event, they close off the entire city block on St. Helens Avenue. Coordinated by J. Daniel Elquist, it should draw in a variety of performers, including an as-yet-to-be-announced contestant from RuPaul’s Drag Race.

As a possible hint, The Deltan Club recently announced Shangela would be performing on July 14th, along with Seattle drag queens Lily Armani, Mama Tits, and community icon Aleksa Manila.

Grand Cinema is sporting three movies and another one is being shown at the Tacoma Public Library.

Executive Director Philip Cowan responded to an email about the movies the Grand Cinema will be showing in relation to Tacoma Pride.

“Question One” was chosen “because it mirrors the situation WA is in. It follows the similar political movement in Maine…It ‘feels’ like an important documentary to me.”

Then there’s “Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same”, “I saw this film when it debuted at Sundance in 2011…It copies the feel of old B&W sci-fi films of the 1950s. It is low budget but is a lot of fun.”

Finally, “Cloudburst” because it’s a “great topic of an elderly lesbian couple driving to Canada to get married.”

The Broadway Center will be hosting community talks and is hoping to attract military-associated members from the community. This year’s festival is the first one since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed. Bittle noted that some military members have lost their jobs due to this policy. There will be a staged reading of the play titled “Fifth of July,” with discussions afterward.

An event called “Queering Your Bookshelf” will be held by owner of King’s Books, Sweet Pea Flaherty and Pierce County Library System fiction selector Matt Lemanski. Lemanski also runs a GLBT Book Club in association with King’s Books, which meets monthly at Tully’s Coffee on Broadway. Their next discussion happens amidst pride celebrations on July 14 at 2 p.m.

City council is also on board, organizing a raising of the rainbow flag on Tacoma’s Municipal Building. Following the flag raising is a kickoff party at B2 Fine Arts Gallery just down the street.

“I really like it because there’s something for everybody,” said City Council member Ryan Mello, who is a part of the coalition of those working together for the festivities. Mello and other marriage equality advocates are also expected to use the festival as an opportunity to spread the word on Referendum 74.

A few local church groups are putting together a few events as well, including First United Methodist Church and Urban Grace Church. Other faith communities across Tacoma are being encouraged to take part by “focusing on equality and equity”.

A reception is being held at IBEW 76 Hall on July 18.

A flyer for the events can be found throughout town with more detailed times and locations. Up to the date information is posted on Facebook and or one could learn more by visiting the Rainbow Center on St. Helens Ave.