A walk through Gay Pride 2006: Just like any other festival, only different

Before Saturday afternoon, I had never seriously considered or even briefly entertained the thought of attending a Seattle Pride Festival.

So on June 24, as I walked onto the grounds of the Seattle Center-the first year the event has been held there-I had almost no clue what to expect, what I would see or how I would entertain myself for the ensuing hours.

But above all else, I decided prior to entering the festival grounds that I would put aside all assumptions and premonitions and just take in the event as it was-nothing more, nothing less.

When I finally set sight on the festival, my first thought was: "Wait, isn't this Folklife?" The setup was very similar to the Memorial Day gathering, with booths erected around the area, music blaring and the fountain spraying in the middle of it all. Except for the small number of people present, it was very difficult to tell the two events apart.

Walking around the different booths, I finally started to notice some subtle differences. Familiar organizations such as The Seattle Times and Washington Mutual popped into view, surrounded by lesser-known names (to me, at least) such as the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. Animal rights and protection groups occupied more than a few of the many stalls.

But in general, most aspects of the event were very similar to any other public festival in Seattle. I was bombarded by petitioners every third step-OK, every fourth. Political candidates occupied booths and corners, seeking voter support and a chance to explain their issues.

One evangelist approached me with a flyer; another man stood on the grass and shouted out a Christian message. I saw tons of different ethnicities and age groups, all walking around and enjoying the beautiful weather.

Although the music definitely had a pro-homosexual focus, there were mainstream tunes, too. The smell of greasy, carnival-like food permeated the air as crowds lined up to fill their stomachs.

There were also the usual colorful clothing styles among the attendees. My personal favorites were the lady with tie-dye on every part of her body, the guy wearing a shirt printed with the challenge "define girlfriend," and the gentleman with nothing but a cowboy hat and a pair of khaki shorts-emphasis on short.

Of course, amid these things were signs that this festival was different from others.

Many of the couples walking around were same-sex, although a lot of heterosexual partners were also on hand. A sign on the Fisher Pavilion endorsed the event as "Out & Proud: Seattle Pride 2006." One booth proclaimed that "civil marriage is a civil right." Two men blocked part of the pathway as they welcomed each other with a kiss.

One of the more intriguing sights was an inflatable blow-up of a certain male reproductive organ that had the president's head glued on, and a sign that said, "Love, no boundaries." While many people were just walking around, it was evident that others had come to make a more direct statement.

In the hot weather, many kids decided to sacrifice dry clothes and hop right in among the descending fountains. It was funny to watch them there, enjoying themselves without a care in the world. They were right in the middle of a festival that was celebrating an extremely hot political, religious, social and moral issue. The kids, however, had no idea of this context; all they knew was that this splashing business was very, very fun.

During all of my time there, nothing about the festival really jumped up and grabbed me. It was a bunch of people gathering together in festivities to celebrate a cause.

Really, only one thing stood out. The cause of the gathering was different-some people agree with it and some don't. But the festival itself was nothing out of the ordinary.

Jesse Baumgartner is entering his sophomore year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He attended Garfield High School and has lived in Queen Anne for the majority of his life.[[In-content Ad]]