Saturday in the Park Pride mixes celebration with seriousness as it returns to Esther Short Park for its 26th year.
“The event is more than just, ‘Let’s set up for a day and go yay,’ ” said Micheil MacCutcheon, president of Vancouver USA Pride.
“It’s not just like we have this huge celebration, and all we’re going to do is party,” he said. “It’s an educational experience. It’s also a place to be supported when you’re going through a rough time.”
Most LGBTQ pride events are in June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, named for the gay bar in New York City raided by police on June 28, 1969. At the time, it was illegal for people of the same gender to engage in public displays of affection.
Vancouver’s annual pride celebration, which began in 1994, is on the second Saturday in July to avoid competing with other pride events. Some 3,000 to 5,000 people have attended the free event in past years, MacCutcheon said.
He expects the event will be bigger this year. He has signed up 86 booths, a jump from the 50 or so in previous years.
As usual, local hospitals and Cascade AIDS Project are represented. People can get free, confidential medical tests for HIV or sexually transmitted diseases.
Other booths offer food, pottery, soaps, crafts and pride T-shirts.
Ten percent of event proceeds help sponsor college scholarships for LGBTQ youth that memorialize local activist Bonnie Tinker, who died in 2009.
Bands, drag queens, dancers and other acts will take the stage throughout the day, beginning at 10 a.m. with drum and flute music by Traveling Day Society and closing with a 4:45 p.m. performance by the Portland Lesbian Choir.
Vancouver comic actor Jennifer Lanier will adopt her drag king persona Bruce T.D. King to serve as master of ceremonies.
Other related festivities include the AIDS charity run Lyle’s Myles, which begins at 8:30 a.m. in the park, as well as an afternoon dance from 3 to 7 p.m. at Heathen Brewing Feral Public House with music by the Aussie-American duo URSABOMB.
Six West Lounge, 606 Broadway, will host a breakfast benefiting Martha’s Pantry at 9 a.m. July 13 and the Gay Vancouver Pageant at 6 p.m. July 14.
Despite progress on LGBTQ rights, the pride event remains relevant, MacCutcheon said.
“Even though you can be married in this country, you can still be legally fired for being married to someone of the same gender,” he said.
Advocates have tracked 26 violent deaths of transgender people in the United States last year, and 11 so far this year.
“We have a long ways to go to deal with anger in this country,” MacCutcheon said. “It becomes more important to have an event like this. This is a space where if you are gay or straight, we don’t care. It’s one single day when bias isn’t a big issue. It’s a celebration of love.”
If You Go
What: Saturday in the Park Pride.
When: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Esther Short Park, Eighth and Columbia streets, downtown Vancouver.
10 a.m. Traveling Day Society
10:30 a.m. Queer Color Guard
11 a.m. Metropolitan Performing Arts
11:30 a.m. Polynesian dancers
Noon Original Practice Shakespeare
12:30 p.m. There She Goes
1:15 p.m. Sasha Hour
2 p.m. Vancouver Gay Prides
2:45 p.m. Bruce T.D. King and Blaze
3 p.m. Imperial Sovereign Court of the Reign Tree Empire
3:15 p.m. Sexbots
3:45 p.m. Living Skins
4:45 p.m. Portland Lesbian Choir