Participants of the Bellingham Pride parade cheered and performed for spectators on Sunday, July 15 as they made their way from Bellingham High School to Market Depot Square. // Photo by Jessica Vangel
The Bellingham Pride Festival came to an end as performers in the Pride Parade made their way from Halleck Street to Market Depot Square on Sunday, July 15.
The festival started in 1999 and is now the second largest pride festival in Washington state.
Glenn Hupp, Bellingham Pride coordinator, explained how Bellingham Pride has doubled in size since last year.
“We looked at it like a living room and said, ‘that doesn’t go there’ and so we moved some things around and spread the event out a little bit to accommodate more people.” Hupp said.
The theme for 2018 Bellingham Pride was the Stonewall Riots. Tree Sequoia, gay rights activist and original bartender at Stonewall Inn, was the Parade Grand Marshall.
Stonewall Inn was the site of a police raid of a gay bar in New York City in 1969 that sparked a gay rights movement.Sequoia said his experience at the Stonewall Riots is important for younger generations to learn about.
“I travel around the U.S. lecturing at high schools and colleges about the history because the younger generations have no idea of the trouble I got into just for being in a gay bar,” Sequoia said. “We went through hell and I want everyone to know.”
Hupp said this year was all about reaching out to Sequoia and was based on how he could get him here to share his knowledge with the community.
“This is a natural fit, this is the type of community that would bring a person like this in,” Hupp said. “It’s so unique and if anyone appreciates something unique, it’s Bellingham.”
Parade participants cheered, danced and performed for spectators as they made their way from Bellingham High School to Market Depot Square.
Participants with rainbow umbrellas performed routines, the Bellingham Fire Department sat atop their truck waving a rainbow flag and drag queens strutted down the street exciting the crowd.
Once the parade ended, the festival began. Market Depot Square was full of booths representing diverse organizations such as Socialist Alternative and Washington Gender Alliance. Pride attendees bounced from booth to booth inquiring about the different organizations as the smell of hotdogs permeated the air.
On the street, drag queens performed to music onstage, dancing and lip syncing under the banner “Queens in the Streets.” The crowd cheered and danced along with the show as bass from the music rumbled through the festival.
Attendees wore bright and colorful clothing. Some walked hand in hand with their partners while others walked with large groups of friends.
Friends ran to embrace one another with painted bodies while others danced in the street and spun contact staffs and hula hoops.
Sherry Jubilo, who has been attending Pride events since 1986, sat on a corner down the street from Market Square Depot and held a cardboard sign that read “BIGOTS GO TO HELL.”
Jubilo was hoarse from yelling at the protestors who stood across the street holding religious signs that promised eternal damnation for all sinners.
“It was a protest, now it’s a celebration,” Jubilo said. “We might need to turn back towards protest.”
Mark Allyn, a local artist and fashion designer, grew up in Boston and lived in Portland, Oregon before moving to Bellingham two years ago. He said he prefers the Bellingham Pride out of any he’s been too.
“The march is small and intimate,” Allyn said. “It feels comfortable. Out of all the places I’ve lived, Bellingham is my favorite place.”
In a sea of attendees from all sexualities, genders, ages and ethnicities, Hupp said almost everyone was there to support equality and to love and accept one another for who they are. Although attendees shared many of the same sentiments, Pride takes on a unique personal meaning to each of them, he said.
To Spencer Belsvick, an attendee who stood in the street spinning his contact staff, Pride means: “Being proud of who you are and being proud of other people being proud.”
To Tristan Holmes, a fifth-time attendee, Pride means: “Being able to be myself after people told me I couldn’t.”
And to Hupp, Pride means: “To create a place for people to all come together as a community and enjoy an event all together”