QueerFest: "The point is unity"
Seattle Times staff reporter
They came dressed in fishnets, leather, feather boas, rainbow tie-dye — even nothing. Mothers and fathers pushing strollers; advocates for causes ranging from gay marriage to immigrant rights.
More than 30,000 people turned out Saturday for the second-annual QueerFest on Capitol Hill, according to organizer Shannon Thomas, executive director of the Seattle Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center. Participants formed a procession along Broadway to Volunteer Park, where they spent a sunny afternoon in the grass surrounded by food vendors, music and political speeches.
QueerFest is one of two major Seattle weekend events honoring the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York that marked the start of the gay-rights movement. A downtown parade organized by Seattle Out and Proud starts at 11 a.m. today along Fourth Avenue. A festival takes place from noon to 6 p.m. at the Seattle Center.
Until last year, Pride events were centered on Capitol Hill, the heart of Seattle's gay and lesbian community. The move downtown exposed divisions between activists who thought Pride events should remain centered on Capitol Hill and those who argued for the more mainstream, downtown locale. Thomas said Saturday's turnout shows there's enough support for the two events.
"People have different opinions — uptown, downtown — but the point is unity," she said.
Jessica O'Donnell, 20, traveled from Chico, Calif., to attend QueerFest with friends. "I like that you can let go and not worry about being queer," she said.
A 29-year-old man who wouldn't give his full name and who wore a black tuxedo and a "Mr. Gay Washington" sash, said the fact that there are now two events is a "testament" to the strength of Seattle's gay and lesbian community. He said he's actively involved with Seattle Out and Proud and acknowledged that "we've had our disagreements, but we've been able to work them out."
Brian McGuffey, co-owner of the Square Room, a Capitol Hill store that sells handmade jewelry and home décor, also supports two events. A downtown venue shows how the community is no longer contained to one neighborhood, he said. Besides, he added, Broadway "isn't so gay anymore," referring to the loss of some gay-owned businesses there.
But Karsten Betd, co-owner of Julia's on Broadway, a restaurant along the procession route, said there should just be one Pride event: on Capitol Hill. Before the move downtown, he said, Pride weekend was the restaurant's busiest of the year.
"Now it's diluted," he said. "If you have 30,000 people turn out, and you used to have 100,000, it's a big difference."
Travis Horn, 21, who waved a flag and passed out plastic necklaces, agreed. He recalled the bigger turnouts from previous years, such as when one parade included a naked man on inline skates, which caused him to do a double-take.
"That never happened before," he said.
Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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