I scream, you scream, we all scream for ICE CREAM!
There will be lots of screaming, and lots of everyone's favorite frozen dessert at Freedom Day 2004 when the Northwest's largest Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride March (Parade) and Rally beams down once more on Capitol Hill next year on June 26 and 27. And this year, there's a theme: I Scream Pride.
While the word scream may evoke images of aggression and hostility, that is the furthest thing from the event board of directors' minds, according to Johan Lysne, who co-chairs the Freedom Day Committee with Melissa Holloway. He said the operative word is not scream. The operative idea is the pun on ice cream, which he points out is neither hostile nor aggressive.
The idea of the I Scream theme was to have something that speaks to who the participants are and what they stand for, rather than going to a more political theme that may result in creating division in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community.
"It won't be hostile or aggressive," Lysne said. "Hopefuly everyone will be able to agree on a common denominator."
The theme was decided during a board retreat last weekend near the town of Leavenworth on the east slope of the Cascade Mountains. There, 10 of the 12 event directors met to discuss the results of a grand brainstorming session held at Seattle Central Community College on Thursday, Nov. 13. There were 19 adults and three students from Nova High School at that meeting. Participants were mainly board members, but the representatives of the larger community made the meeting a spirited and wide-ranging discussion of theme, grand marshals, whether or not to host a beer garden, where to hold the festival and what should take place at the festival.
Theme suggestions ranged from Loud and Proud to the Wizard of Oz. There were stops along the way to talk about gay youth, justice, gay health and avoiding ghettoizing. The suggestions were not voted on or prioritized in any way, just written on easel sheets and kept for the trip to Leavenworth. And yes, the theme selected, I Scream Pride, was one of the suggestions.
Suggestions for grand marshal were even more wide ranging. The march has three grand marshals each year, one organizational, one male and one female. Among the nominees were Allyson Hannigan, the recently married actress who played a lesbian witch on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer;" the Fab 5, those sophisticated stars of the television show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Gary Atkins, author of the history book "Gay Seattle." Also under consideration is a reprise of the very first grand marshal in observance of 2004 as the 40th anniversary of the Pride march, a "collage" of former grand marshals, the winners of Youthophelia, Dennis Coleman, director of the Seattle Men's Chorus and director of the Seattle Women's Chorus, among several others.
The directors reached a decision on the grand marshals for 2004, but will not announce them until the nominees are contacted and agree to participate.
During the grand marshal discussion the question arose regarding why the annual parade is called a march. The answer is $100,000. That is the amount of money the city government would demand, up front, from the parade organizers to pay for police overtime, street cleanup and other associated expenses. Later discussion revealed that if the Gay Pride event is a march, then the participants are exercising their constitutional right of free speech.
The demarcation is if the march has less than 62 percent non-profit participation, then it becomes a parade and is considered commercial speech. The event would then become even more expensive to stage than it already is. That is the reason, according to the discussion, that the march does not have the floats and marching bands that so many of the organizers and public would like to see. According to one estimate, it costs a minimum of $4,000 to construct a presentable float.
Fund raising neatly dovetailed into that discussion. The policy has always been to have a completely free event, but it was suggested that charging for the entertainment might help the bottom line. No consensus was reached or attempted on that point.
The most contentious discussion revolved around whether or not to host a beer garden. Those in favor insisted that a beer garden would draw more people to the festival and rally that follows the parade, and keep them there longer. One objection was the image that the presence of a beer garden at the festival would present, but the strongest opposition came from the representative of The Cuff, a Capitol Hill tavern.
"When you put in a beer garden we are no longer a team," he said. "This is how I live, how I make my money and how I pay my bills." He said he would go to the Parks Department to oppose allowing a beer garden. The Parks Department has not allowed a beer garden at Volunteer Park in the past.
Nonetheless, the board of directors have agreed to pursue hosting a beer garden for this year's event.
Moving the event was also suggested. Although sites beyond Capitol Hill were discussed - such as a march downtown - there was little enthusiasm for moving the event away from the Hill. However, there was enthusiasm for changing the march route to end at Broadway and East Pine Street and have the festival and rally at Cal Anderson Park. Moving to Cal Anderson Park would give the event the advantage of being closer to the center of the gay business community, rather than staying in Volunteer Park, which is in a mainly residential area.
The board is investigating options with the park board and is not prepared to announce the location yet for the 2004 event.
The meeting was marked with general goodwill and civility, and all points of view were discussed without rancor.
"This hasn't been our biggest crowd," Lynse said at the end of the evening, "but it has been our most intellectual crowd."
Freelance writer Korte Brueckmann is a Capitol Hill resident.