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Bellingham
Thursday, May 13, 2021

Pride and No Prejudice

Cassie O’Piah (right), 29, brings her drag sister, Kiona O’Piah (left), 22, her light-up whips just before taking she took the stage during the drag show at the Make.Shift All-Ages Dance party. // Photo by October Yates
Cassie O’Piah (right), 29, brings her drag sister, Kiona O’Piah (left), 22, her light-up whips just before taking she took the stage during the drag show at the Make.Shift All-Ages Dance party. // Photo by October Yates

Rainbow-clad bodies climbed down the stairs at 9 p.m. Friday night and poured into the venue, all ready to celebrate the night, and start Pride weekend by dancing the night away.

Make.Shift’s All Ages Dance and Drag Show kicked off the much anticipated weekend full of Bellingham Pride events.

Some came in big groups, some met up with friends and some came alone. Those who came alone weren’t alone for long. The LGBTQ+ community is known for inclusivity. Those sitting alone were asked to dance until the room was dancing together.

Glen Hupp, a member on the board of Bellingham Pride, praised the all ages dance, and said how important it is for younger kids to have safe and supportive environment.

“The youth don’t have an outlet for them to congregate and have fun. There needs to be more youth activities for the community to enrichen it and make it complete and whole,” Hupp said.

It has been two years since Bellingham has had a dance party during Pride weekend, and this was the first that was open to all ages.

Student Brenyn Hart knows how crucial it is for children to be exposed to an environment like the one Make.Shift was providing. Hart said that providing a caring atmosphere with no judgment is important.

By 10 p.m., the festivities were in full swing and the dance floor was packed. The closer individuals got to the stage, the more outrageous dance moves there were.

While some chose to represent the rainbow subtly, others went all out, complete with rainbow shoes, make-up, socks, hats and glitter of every color.

DJ and Western student, Henry Leenstra, 20, preforms his set for a crowd of about 300 on Friday July 8. 2016. // Photo by October Yates
DJ and Western student, Henry Leenstra, 20, preforms his set for a crowd of about 300 on Friday July 8. 2016. // Photo by October Yates

Music from DJ Henry and Western’s radio station KUGS were blaring through the speakers. Throughout the night, drag queens and kings took the stage, lip synching their favorite songs, starting with the whole crowd singing along to Party In the USA.

It was also around this time that Ty Jackson, board member of Bellingham Pride, knew this was a record-setting night.

“We’re going to hit the biggest turnout we’ve ever had,” Jackson said.

Bellingham Pride has grown tremendously over the last 16 years. What started as a small-scale event in Fairhaven Park has now grown to a full-fledged weekend of celebration, according to the organization’s site.

Make.Shift and Bellingham Pride wanted as many people to come out and have a good time, and ensured so with free admission and no age restrictions.

As friends, families, strangers and lovers danced, there was noticeable anticipation for what the rest of the weekend would bring.

“It’s probably going to set the speed for the whole weekend,” Hupp said.

While the majority of pride festivals happen in June, which is National Gay & Lesbian Month, Bellingham Pride has chosen July as the month of celebration, with a higher chance of nice weather and no other pride conflicts for attendees, according to the Bellingham Pride website.

The Pride dance cames only a few weeks after the tragedy in Orlando, and both Hupp and Johnson said they could see effects on Pride this weekend.

“Orlando has created a revolution really. It’s put being gay back in the mainstream and shows that we still have some hurdles to climb”. Hupp said.

Johnson added that the exposure of Orlando will result in a huge attendance at all events. The Bellingham Police department has been helpful and provided extra resources to ensure safety over the weekend Johnson said.

While there was a suggested donation of $5, Make.Shift volunteers emphasized to attendees to give what they could. Those unable to donate were encouraged to have a good time and celebrate anyway. All proceeds from donations went directly to Bellingham Pride, who had a table set up selling newly designed and locally printed shirts and hats.

Bellingham Pride started the weekend on a high note. What started as a  dance and drag show at Make.Shift turned into something much more. It became a safe place, for those young and old; for those who were well on their path of self discovery and those who were taking the first steps. The dance was a night for everyone to gear up for the weekend, celebrate who they are with no judgement; to see old friends and make new ones. Love was in the air; it was love for each other, and for the community.

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