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Tacoma Pride: A week of celebrating in the streets

Festival presents different avenues to understanding LGBTQ issues

Scene from the 2010 Out in the Park festival at Tacoma's Wright Park. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

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It wasn't too long into my tenure of hanging out in downtown Tacoma - after years of fearing it from my home in the North End - before I visited my first gay bar. I was doing an essay for my English class at TCC, where we were charged with interviewing people whose jobs we wanted to have when we grew up.

At the time, tending bar seemed appealing to a 15-year-old me, who just had his first taste of beer and other exciting things. I went to Club Silverstone and had a very naïve interview with a bartender. Throughout this entire interaction, I was more intimidated to be standing in a bar than I was to be talking to an openly gay man.

Times had already had their tidal shift by the time that encounter happened. Go back even a decade before, and that conversation might have been fundamentally different for a sheltered teen like me, let alone two or three decades before. Things continue to get better for the LGBT community, at an exponential rate, as the younger generation comes into power and asks just who might give a fuck about whom another person loves.

After more than 20 years of hosting the Out in the Park festival, Tacoma branched out four years ago to have their own full-on Tacoma Pride Festival. Not only has Out in the Park stuck around, but a cavalcade of other events have shown up to fill out the week-long celebration. Recently, I spoke with Event Development Coordinator and Manager/Event Planner for Out in the Park, Lisa Fruichantie, about how things have evolved with this continually growing event.

"Out in the Park was Tacoma's singular-day pride event," says Fruichantie. "Four years ago, the Rainbow Center merged and had a number of producing partners, and it turned into a six or seven day festival, to incorporate a number of events, including a flag-raising, a faith event, a film series and a lot of other fun gay events."

There's almost too many things to mention about this year's Pride Week, which has ballooned to such an extent that there are more things to do and see than one could possibly do. Fruichantie spoke to me about her favorite aspects of this year's installment.

"One of the really exciting events that we're doing, which is new, is called ‘Crossing the Threshold: LGBTQ Stories of Spirit,'" says Fruichantie. "In the past, we've always had a lot of religious organizations that have come together and created a faith panel, but we wanted to do something different and really bring together multiple faiths to create a really diverse project. One of our producing partners, Drunken Telegraph, collaborated with the Broadway Center and the Immanuel Presbyterian Church to host an evening that will feature six stories of faith from the LGBT community. It's a really diverse group, and all of their stories are unique and different. It's done in a cabaret atmosphere, with a bar, and it's underneath Immanuel Presbyterian. It'll be fun."

Beyond all of the politicking and self-affirmation that comes along with a Pride Week, of course there is a massive amount of celebration and general partying. First and foremost, as usual, is the Block Party held outside of The Mix, which is always a gathering for hordes of LGBT people aiming to let off some well-earned steam. Last time I went, I marveled at how long it had been since I'd seen that many people in one location, let alone how many joyous people converging on one intersection. With scores of DJs and performances from Kim Archer Band, Stephanie Anne Johnson, and Florida, the Block Party is a perfectly raucous place to gather. And, not for nothing, the party is going until 4 p.m., if you're so dangerous.

To enumerate the other many events happening during Pride Week is close to impossible, but I'll finally direct you to the Tacoma Pride Film Series being held at the Grand Cinema. While the fest is featuring well-received movies like Lilting and Appropriate Behavior, Fruichantie specifically points me to the compilation of LGBT short films, which she rightly says have a hard time at receiving exposure.

It's heartening and exciting to attend a Pride event. If you've never been, if you're straight, if you feel out of place - do yourself a favor and get downtown this week. Not much beats it.


Friday, July 11

Flag raising with Mayor Marilyn Strickland and 8th Annual LGBTQ Community Pride Awards, 4:30 p.m., Pantages Theater, 901 Broadway, free, bar w/ID

"Crossing the Threshold: LGBTQ Stories of Spirit," 6 p.m., Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 901 South J St., $10, bar w/ID

Saturday, July 12

Out in the Park with booths, food and live music by Dario, Stephanie Anne Johnson, Kim Archer and others, noon to 5 p.m., Broadway between Ninth and 11th streets, free, beer garden w/ID

The Mix's Annual Pride Block Party, 5 p.m. to 4 a.m., Saint Helens between Sixth and Seventh streets, $10, 21+

Sunday, July 13

PROUD Outloud! Fundraiser for Oasis Youth Center serving LGBTQ ages 14-24, 6 p.m., Stadium High School Performing Arts Center, 111 N. East St., $25

Monday, July 14 to Wednesday, July 16

Tacoma Pride Film Series, 2 and 7 p.m. daily, The Grand Cinema, 606 S. Fawcett, $7.50-$9.50

Wednesday, July 16

Closing Night reception, 7 p.m., The Grand Cinema, free admission, bar w/ID

Wrap It Up Party, 8 p.m., The Mix, 635 St. Helens Ave., free admission, 21+

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