■ Meighan Doherty and Eric Green pull a float of a giant pink bulldog during the Queerfest march along Broadway in 2007. The Pride parade had already moved downtown by then. The Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce plan to resurrect its own Pride Fest this year. file photo/Bradley Enghaus
In a dusky conference room at the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct, eight people gathered to discuss a new plan for LGBT Pride festivities on Capitol Hill: the upcoming Pride Festival 2009 on Broadway.
The group of attendees at Capitol Hill Community Council's (CHCC) Arts and Events Committee meeting last Sunday was diverse. Boe Odyssey, a "scarf dancer" and frequenter of local festivals, sat opposite Carl Medeiros, the owner of a few Capitol Hill businesses, including Panache Clothing. Among others, the Rev. Ray Neal of Metropolitan Community Church Seattle was in attendance. CHCC vice president Charlette LeFevre, chair of the Arts and Events Committee, ran the meetings.
For more than 20 years, Seattle Out and Proud (formerly Seattle Pride Committee) sponsored a Pride parade down Broadway. But in 2006, Out and Proud decided to hold the parade downtown instead, igniting much controversy.
The LGBT Community Center stepped in and held a march down Broadway in 2006 and 2007, but in 2008, the Hill was conspicuously silent, save the sound of a few hundred marchers in the annual Dyke March.
CHCC hopes to create an event that will once again mark Capitol Hill as a focal point of Seattle Pride Weekend.
The community council announced the Pride Festival's date of June 27 earlier this month. Most details are still fluid.
The Pride Festival is set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Broadway, between Olive Way and Harrison Street. Those two blocks will be closed off to traffic for the event.
Anywhere from 40 to 100 booth spaces will be available for rental by businesses and nonprofits; the committee is still hammering this out. "We're going to use every inch of that space," LeFevre said.
Mark "Mom" Finley, a local celebrity drag queen, will serve as master of ceremonies. He'll kick off the event from a single stage to be erected between Espresso Vivace and Washington Mutual on Broadway.
The community council estimates at least 2,000 people will attend, although they hope for 5,000 to 10,000.
Finley is quick to add that the number of attendees is not what is important.
"If things go well, maybe in the future it will be larger," he said. "But right now, it's just a way to have some fun up on the Hill for Pride - that's about it. We're not stealing any thunder from anybody else. We're just having a good time."
So far, the day's lineup includes performances by the Seattle Men's Chorus, the return of the Miss Broadway Contest (a drag pageant estranged from Capitol Hill since 2007) and a pet parade. Periodic "Historical Pride Moments," brief presentations of critical moments in the advancement of the global LGBT community, are also scheduled.
'TO THE BARE BONES,' IF NEEDED
LeFevre emphasized that the community council is approaching the Festival in a transparent, grass-roots and fiscally responsible manner. What they really need now is volunteers.
Although she does not have an exact figure of how much it will cost, LeFevre said CHCC will not spend beyond its means and will cut the festival to the bare bones if needed.
The council took heed of the financial trouble the Seattle LGBT Community Center experienced when it overextended itself financially in 2007 to keep a Gay Pride festival and parade on Capitol Hill after traditional sponsors moved the events downtown.
Before applying for a permit to hold the event, which was obtained a couple of weeks ago, the committee distributed a survey to Capitol Hill businesses to ascertain what sort of support could be garnered for a Pride festival on the Hill. Twenty-five businesses stated that they would support such a cause, but few strict confirmations have been made. LeFevre said Sound Transit has set aside money, and there are two large companies "waiting at the gates to donate."
The community council will use some of its existing funds for the event, and the group is hoping to receive a Neighborhood Matching Fund grant from the city, as well.
Money or not, however, LeFevre is determined to see the festival through to the end.
"I don't care if all we have is a soapbox and a microphone," she said. "The festival is going to happen."
Both LeFevre and Medeiros said this festival is not intended to compete with other Gay Pride events occurring that weekend and is being separately planned and staged.
"With this new event, it's not a competitive event," Medeiros said. "This is just one more add-on to the many add-ons of Pride, such as the event at Purr [Cocktail Lounge], a block party at The Cuff. And Wild Rose is having an event. This needs to just be one more add-on to the [Seattle Out and Proud] Pride Parade."
For more information about the Capitol Hill Pride Festival, visit CHCC's website at www.capitolhillcommunitycouncil.org.