A participant of the Bellingham Pride Parade walks down Cornwall Avenue surrounded by bubbles and bright LGBTQ+ flags on Sunday, July 14. //Photo by Ally Burdett
By Ally Burdett
A sea of rainbows crowded the downtown streets as community members of all ages participated in the fourth annual Bellingham Pride Parade on Sunday, July 14.
The parade started around noon on Ohio Street where decorated floats and music danced towards Cornwall Avenue and ended at Depot Market Square.
Bellingham Pride began in 1999 with just a few members but has since grown into the second-largest pride event in all of Washington, according to their Facebook.
The event was celebrated over three days, beginning on Friday lasting until Sunday. Festivities at local businesses around the city included a “Pride Family BBQ” at Boundary Bay Brewery and a drag show at Rumors Cabaret.
Thousands of people gathered in anticipation of the Sunday parade.
“I didn’t even know there was this many people in Bellingham,” Sebastian Libertini said. He was wearing a colorful mask and beads for his second time attending Bellingham Pride.
The parade announced its start with sounds of sirens and roaring motorcycles as the Bellingham Police Department escorted Mayor Kelli Linville down the street. Linville waved a rainbow flag from the inside of a vintage blue car with her name painted on the sides.
During the parade there were various types of entertainment that included synchronized flag throwers, dancing drag queens, the Free Mom Hugs group and several dogs with rainbow bandanas tied around their necks.
The Rainbow City Performing Arts marching band provided music towards the end of the parade. The band also attended the Seattle Pride Parade that took place on June 30.
Many local businesses and organizations showed their support during the hour long parade such as: the Whatcom Humane Society, the Washington Gender Alliance, LGBTQ+ Western and the Whatcom County chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Sage Jones, co-chair of the Bellingham Democratic Socialists of America and other members of the chapter held signs that read “Queer Liberation. Not Rainbow Capitalism.”
“I’m here because I’m queer so it’s important to celebrate that with other people,” Jones said. She also expressed the importance of remembering the 1969 Stonewall riots that helped initiate the pride festivities that are now celebrated nationwide.
“Pride started with a riot and we like to honor that,” Jones said.
The parade concluded with Lady Gaga’s song “Born this Way” playing through the speakers lining the street, but the festivities weren’t over yet.
Community members previously standing on the sidewalks flooded the closed streets and walked towards the Depot Market Square for a festival that lasted until 6 p.m.
The festival provided food, arts and crafts, booths with local organizations and free entertainment on a large stage.
Ben Mann, an artist from Bellingham, was selected as this year’s grand marshal, which is awarded during parades to commemorate a specific community member. Mann told stories on stage about coming out as a gay man to his family on Christmas.
Mann explained how his father supported him and loved him but wondered what the appeal was for a same-sex relationship.
“Dad, when you get together with another guy, your entire wardrobe doubles,” Mann told the crowd, who responded in laughter. “I’m so proud to be from Bellingham,” Mann said.
Mann then introduced this year’s first ever youth grand marshal, Jace Taylor.
Taylor recently gained recognition among the community when let go from his camp counselor position at The Firs after it was discovered he had a boyfriend, according to KOMO News. Throughout the parade, many participants held signs that read “We Support Jace.”
Taylor went on stage and explained why The Firs decided to fire him.
“I was fired because I was gay and that didn’t align with their Christian doctrine,” Taylor said. “That broke my heart, but what mended it back together was seeing Bellingham’s community coming together to support me and just fight against discrimination, because love overpowers discrimination.
After the grand marshals left the stage, the second annual “Queens in the Streets” provided live entertainment with drag performances. The first performance was led by Vivienne Duchanne.
Bellingham Pride concluded the night with a street dance that united the surrounding participants to twirl with the swirl of rainbow flags and setting sun.