Months of planning and seven years of growth weren’t enough — organizers of the Capitol Hill Pride Festival, an upstart celebration of LGBTQ cultures that some say harkens back to the early days when Broadway was the center of queer Seattle, have been denied a permit to expand the street fair to Sunday — the same day as the city’s huge downtown Gay Pride parade. In a spirit that also might harken back to days when Seattle was a smaller, simpler place, the organizers are vowing to fight on and go forward with their planned expansion.
“Our position is to go forward with Sunday,” a brief statement sent to media Tuesday reads. “Authorized or not.”
City officials say the festival lost out in a Pride weekend numbers game — there’s just too much going on that Sunday.
“Due to a number of different major events the weekend of June 26th, and factoring in available Seattle Police Department staff resources, it isn’t feasible to accommodate a second day for the Capitol Hill Pride Festival this year,” a statement from Joe Mirabella, director of communications for the Office of Economic Development and Office of Film and Music sent to CHS reads. “Consequently, Seattle’s Special Event Committee declined the Capitol Hill Pride Festival organizer’s request to add a second festival day, Sunday June 26th.”
According to Mirabella, the festival organizers appealed the decision but were recently notified that the denial was upheld. “The decision to decline the additional day does not affect the historical Saturday Capitol Hill Pride Festival event date, which will occur on Saturday, June 25th,” Mirabella writes.
The 2016 Seattle Dyke March, which shares Broadway on the Saturday night of the festival, is not affected by the street fair’s permit issues. This year, Dykes on Bikes is slated to lead the march.
Capitol Hill Pride Festival organizers have not responded to CHS’s inquiries about the denial or their plans to go on with the Sunday expansion.
Planned for Saturday and Sunday, June 25th and 26th, the festival that got its grassroots start in 2009 has grown into an annual event that organizers say last year drew more than 35,000 to Broadway to celebrate Pride, enjoy performances and a doggie drag show, ride ponies, and, local merchants hope, visit restaurants and bars for food and drink. While many businesses on the street welcome the influx of thousands of celebrants, not everyone has been a fan. This year, the Department of Neighborhoods asked the festival producers to invite Broadway business owners to have a “greater participation in planning” the annual event.
Organizer Charlotte Lefevre used to operate the Seattle Museum of Mysteries on Broadway and has maintained a connection to the street’s older generations of businesses. Capitol Hill used to be the center of Pride weekend’s activities. In 2006, the big parade moved downtown as it outgrew Broadway and expanded to be a bigger part of Seattle culture. While the parties and bar celebrations remain mostly on the Hill, the “official” events have grown well beyond the neighborhood. Lefevre’s Broadway street fair has continued to draw crowds despite the introduction of a competing event in Cal Anderson from the producers of the PrideFest event at Seattle Center. In 2013, Seattle PrideFest expanded its activities back to the Hill with Family Day in Cal Anderson and later added a street festival on 11th Ave. This year, PrideFest will return to Capitol Hill on Saturday, June 25 in Cal Anderson Park.
In the meantime, Pride is in full motion across Capitol Hill. Thursday brings a special Queer Edition of the monthly Capitol Hill Art Walk while the re-tooled Volunteer Park Pride Festival returns Saturday with food trucks and bands Hell’s Belles, Selene Vigil et Amicis, and Boyfriends.