Seattle Pride! turns 30: A two-day fest for the city's largest LGBT event

When summer rolls in, Seattle Pride! rolls out. And this year, for the first time in its 30-year history, it is a full two days - this coming Saturday and Sunday, June 26 and 27.

The Seattle Pride Committee organizes the event, the Northwest's largest lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered pride march and rally. Other than the Sunday march down Broadway, official events focus on Volunteer Park. The Broadway and Pike-Pine business districts are also highly supportive and welcome Seattle pride participants.

Expanding to two days was the choice of the 14-member Seattle Pride Committee in response to community interest over the past several years to include a full schedule of events and booths the day before the march.

"For the last few years we have been doing limited activities on Saturday," said Melissa D. Holloway, one of the co-chairs for this year's event (her co-chair is Johan Lysne IV). "People have said they would like to have food on both days. There are probably people who would prefer to just come on Saturday and then do something else on Sunday."

That would be a shame, of course, because the annual Freedom Day march takes place on Sunday. The march begins at 11 a.m. at the corner of Broadway and Pike Street then follows Broadway, 10th Avenue East and East Prospect Street to Volunteer Park, where the festival takes place.

The committee expects 170 booths, about the same number as last year. Booths will line Volunteer Park's whole boulevard area, from the historic water tower to the William Seward statue in front of the conservatory. Of those about 10 will be gathered into a food court and the rest will be crafts and information booths.

The Seattle Pride Committee estimates that more than 100,000 people attended the event last year. This year, the committee hopes to draw even more.

There are three Grand Marshals for the march (keep in mind, this is a demonstration for freedom and recognition, not a parade), one male, one female and one organizational marhal.

Marsha Botzer, the female grand marshall, is the founder of Seattle's Ingersoll Gender Center, a direct service organization that incorporated in 1984. She has been a psychotherapist in private practice since 1990.

Botzer has served on the board of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force since 2000 and is currently treasurer and chair of the Finance Committee. In Washington state she also serves on the Boards of the Pride Foundation, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, and the Safe Schools Coalition.

Gary Atkins, the march's male marshal, worked with the American Friends Service Committee to create that Quaker organization's lesbian-gay program in the Pacific Northwest. Atkins chaired the Seattle portion of that program as it catalyzed first the People of Color Against AIDS Network and then LGBT youth organizing work that contributed to the establishment of Lambert House. As a communications professor at Seattle University, he has taught courses in freedom of expression law as well as in sexual justice and communication.

Atkins has written numerous articles about LGBT civil rights for both local and national publications, and - most recently - the book "Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging," published in 2003. The book traces the history, geography and communication challenges faced by Seattle's lesbians and gays for a century from 1893 until 1993.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, The Abbey of St. Joan, is the organizational grand marshal for the march. The nonprofit organization includes men and women dedicated to the support, education and development of the community.

The organization calls itself "an order of 21st-century nuns dedicated to the promulgation of universal joy and the expiation of stigmatic guilt." The sisters have a presence on five continents, "there were already too many penguins in Antarctica, it would just be too confusing."

Holloway said the march is expected to draw about 150 entries.

New this year is Bingo in the Park. The committee is ready for up to 1,000 players for the free games. And, of course, there will be prizes.

"It's really exciting that we are going to have another event in the park," Holloway said. The Saturday entertainment in the Volunteer Park amphitheater ends at 6 p.m. and the bingo begins at 6:30 p.m.

"Then we decided it might go better on Saturday because we did have that gap between the end of the entertainment and getting dark enough to show the movie," Holloway explained.

Movie in the Park begins around 9:15 p.m. This year's movie is "9 to 5" with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Dabney Coleman. It, like all the event activities, is free.

Sunday's entertainment headliner is Crystal Waters, a nationally known singer and songwriter who has several gold albums to her credit. Also Sunday will be Sugababe, a United Kingdom trio making its first U.S. tour.

Holloway was at a loss to say how many people and organizations are involved in producing the annual Seattle Pride event.

"It takes a community to pull this event off," she explained. "It definitely is a community event."

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