That the annual Pride march and rally will move off Capitol Hill this year is a done deal. The festival, which for the past 30 years was centered on Broadway and Volunteer Park, relocates to the Seattle Center over the weekend of June 25. The event's showcase parade will travel along Fourth Avenue instead of Broadway.
But the Pride celebration won't exist in a vacuum. While the event won't take place on Capitol Hill this year, a tradition of celebration in the neighborhood is long established. The weekend should still be festive. But to what extent is still to be determined.
Last week, a desire to be proactive about the weekend prompted an informal gathering to discuss Pride weekend possibilities. Roughly 15 people attended the Thursday, Feb. 23, gathering at Julia's, most of whom own businesses on Broadway.
"We want to come up with things we can do in anticipation of Pride weekend despite the event moving off the Hill," said Charlotte LeFevre, director of the Museum of the Mysteries, who organized the gathering. "We're looking at the fact that there will still be thousands of people coming to the Hill. There will still be a huge crowd up here."
Shannon Thomas, executive director of the Seattle Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered (LGBT) Community Center, said that the center will work to help facilitate discussion about various alternatives to the larger event that will take place on the Hill during the weekend.
"The LGBT Center has been working with Seattle Out and Proud (SOAP, the event organizers) to make Pride work for everyone," she said. Thomas announced that a smaller Dyke March will take place on Broadway, and that the Dykes on Bikes may take part as well. "There will be an informal march, though probably not one with floats. And everyone will be welcome."
Broadly sketched out at this early date, Friday night's events will kick off with a Cal Anderson Queer Arts wine festival, a "queer art walk," according to Thomas. Saturday night will include a local, Hill-centric Pride festival, with vendors, spoken word events and music. Details will evolve in the coming months.
Additionally, Broadway businesses Spotlight Fashions, Panache, Peacock Custom Framing and the Museum of the Mysteries are sponsoring the Capitol Hill Catwalk fashion show on the Saturday night as well, with time and location details still to be worked out.
The goal is to have enough going on to be appealing to the crowds of people who will likely make their way up to the Hill after the official events conclude at the Seattle Center.
Michael Wells, owner of Bailey-Coy Books and president of the Broadway Business Improvement Association (BIA), said that the former Safeway building toward the north end of Broadway is likely to be available for a wide variety of activities. The lot is under development by the Bellevue-based Schnitzer Northwest, but the project is still in the early design stages and construction won't begin for many months.
"Schnitzer wants to extend that space to the community," said Wells. "This means that the interior of the building and the parking lot should be available to us. We're hoping the space can be rehabbed in March."
Thomas also announced that an agreement has been reached with SOAP to have Seattle Center events end at 6 p.m. during the Pride weekend. This means that any nightlife-oriented activities organized on the Hill won't be in direct competition with the larger festival. There will likely be shuttle buses from the Seattle Center to Broadway as well.
"We consider this a pretty important agreement," said Thomas. "This means a lot to the bars and restaurants on the Hill."
Other activities being considered include a Pride brunch on the Sunday before the parade and possibly a potluck dinner afterwards, both of which might take place at the old Safeway. The BIA also will help coordinate and promote block party events with local bars and restaurants to help encourage people to come to the Hill during the weekend.
There's no surprise that money is key. Sponsorship money, as well as volunteers, is needed and will determine the scale of Hill-based Pride weekend activities. There was general agreement among the business owners regarding the importance of keeping the scale and budget under control. No major sponsors have signed up as of yet.
"Competing sponsorship with SOAP is a problem for Broadway. But we can build our approach to business owners around the idea of community involvement," said Thomas. "It's important we don't bite off more than we can chew."
Thomas also addressed the potential divisiveness the Pride move has created in members of the LGBT community who opposed the festival leaving the Hill. She said that the task at hand now is to create positive events on Capitol Hill in combination with the larger event taking place downtown.
All agreed that efforts on creating Pride activities on the Hill absent the larger festival is uncharted territory. While well over 100,000 people attended the Pride in the past - crowds large enough to play a part in moving the rally away from Volunteer Park - there's no real way to gauge how many people will take part in smaller-scale events on Capitol Hill this year.
"This is going to be something of a test," said Wells. "This will be a very new thing. We have no idea what kind of crowds we can expect. But there will still be a lot of activity on the Hill during that weekend. For instance, the Safeway site can hold about 800 people. But we might get 150. It's the great unknown."
While acknowledging that this year is something of a brave new world for Pride and Capitol Hill, Thomas said the neighborhood will still project a strong sense of celebration and unity.
"It will still look like there's a lot of Pride on the Hill this year," said Thomas.
The LGBT Community Center can be reached at www. seattlelgbt.org.
Doug Schwartz is the editor of the Capitol Hill Times. He can be reached at email@example.com or 461-1308.