This and other local news outlets have already covered the Pride Festival's potential move from Capitol Hill to Seattle Center, and a few of its potential ramifications.
But there's still more left to say and ponder.
For one thing, the move would make the "freedom rally" the most publicly visible part of Pride Weekend. Up to now, thousands of citizens have viewed the parade, but only the true believers in queer power have stuck around afterwards for the speeches and stationary performers tucked away in Volunteer Park. Even the festival's beer gardens are away from the park, in the Pike/Pine bar district.
But at the Seattle Center, the rally would be in full view from straight-world passersby, for the whole afternoon and evening. This would alter the festival's mainstream public face. Straight citizens who might now think of Pride as a cute, photogenic gathering of drag queens, leather boys and "Dykes on Bikes" might become more deeply exposed to some of the GLBT movement's more serious, political sides.
That, in turn, could conceivably affect the festival's corporate support. The festival's attracted money and endorsements from Starbucks, Microsoft, beer distributors, et al., at least partly because it puts on a relatively benign public face, centered at the parade.
In the city that turned an everyday commodity like coffee into a luxury, the parade is one of Seattle's great branding strokes. All the sub-subcultures of Queer Nation, and the rifts and schisms between and among them, are ignored. The 'sexuality' in homosexuality is greatly toned down. We see one big happy extended family of lovable eccentrics, joyfully demanding the right to get married, keep their jobs and be admired as the fabulous creatures they are. The Pride Parade's carefully-honed persona exalts gays and lesbians as key parts of an enlightened, forward-looking capitalist society; something only a religious bigot could dislike. It had all become safe, predictable, family friendly and often tedious.
Could a more visible rally expose more people to a more militant side of the gay rights movement? Could that impact political and corporate support? Or is Seattle ready for a deeper level of commitment to diversity? Could a more overtly politicized festival shake up and enliven the ritual?
But back to the question most observers have been asking: What would happen to the parade? I can imagine several potential reroutes. It might continue its traditional route north on Broadway, only to just stop. It could abandon Broadway, perhaps to go west on Pine from Seattle Central Community College to downtown and then north to the Center. Or it could take part of its old route, then veer left to take a long downhill march on Denny Way.
Each of these options has its drawbacks.
In the Denny scenario, long parts of the parade route would pass through low-foot-traffic areas.
In the Broadway scenario, the parade would no longer have a logical end point (the rally).
The Pine scenario, then, seems most likely. It would preserve at least some site connectivity between the rally and Capitol Hill. But, as others have already mentioned, it would sever the parade, and Pride Weekend as a whole, from their traditional "main street."
Broadway's lost so much else lately, including three of its retail anchors. Losing the parade would be a minor catastrophe for the district's PR image and for its remaining restaurants and bars.
I suggest a fourth parade route, at least for '06. Use the now-empty Safeway and QFC parking lots as starting/staging zones. Go south down Broadway to Pine; then take a right toward downtown; then take another right on Fourth toward the Center. It'd be a longer route than the other three, strewing crowds more sparsely and further taxing the staminas of non-motorized participants. But it might just be worth it.
(If organizers really wanted to confront the enemies of diversity, they could go further and march everyone at night past the First Avenue frat bars, a.k.a. fag-bashing central.)
Even talking about the festival's future has shaken up what threatened to become a hidebound traditional institution. Perhaps that alone was what the festival needed.
Clark Humphrey's column appears in the first issue of each month. His long-running website on popular culture is www.miscmedia.com.