Rainbow flags, streamers and banners fluttered and flew downtown for Spokane’s 26th annual Pride Parade. Even the dogs and llamas in the parade were sporting rainbows.
Hundreds of people marched through the streets, while hundreds more watched from the sidewalk and cheered. Several churches and other community groups participated in the parade to show their support for the LGBTQ community.
One group handed out rainbow leis, and more than a few rainbow tutus bobbed past the watching crowd. An SUV traveled the route with a dancing drag queen standing in the sun roof, shimmying as the crowd cheered.
Skateboards rattled by while handfuls of candy rained down, sending even the adults on the sidewalks scrambling for the goodies.
“Happy Pride, everyone,” quoth a man in a leather hat, who was traveling the route.
The theme of the parade, which is hosted by OutSpokane, was “May Pride be With You.” It’s probably no accident that a convertible in the parade was driven by someone in a Chewbacca costume.
Theresa Freim and her fiance, Sidney Crittenden, picked out a quiet spot on the parade route to watch everyone go by. Crittenden said she attended last year’s parade, but the experience soured when she found herself standing next to vocal anti-gay protesters.
“They were pretty mean,” she said. “We chose a different spot this year.”
Freim was sick during last year’s parade but was pleased to be there Saturday “because I’m proud of my woman,” she said. “It’s a joyous moment, so we don’t want to be put down for something that we’re proud of.”
Their friend, Cam Carry, was there, though without her partner of 20 years, Tanya Peterson. Carry was also near the protesters last year. “At first I was just stunned that they would say such vicious things,” she said. “We rose up. We kept our pride going. We waved our rainbow flags.”
A knot of vocal protesters from years past were back, taking turns shouting out their R-rated anti-gay message through a megaphone. A row of women in angel costumes with oversized wings stood in front of them to block their view.
“This parade is against the holy God,” shouted one protester, who then turned his ire against a nearby woman. “You need to grow your hair out,” he said.
Marchers mostly ignored the protesters, but they did cheer louder as they passed by in an attempt to drown them out.
Richard McCabe stood watching down the block, shaking his head. He and his girlfriend didn’t realize the parade was happening Saturday and stumbled into it, but they stayed to show their support.
McCabe, a military veteran, said that while his feelings on non-heterosexuality are mixed, he was still upset with the “hate” the protesters were shouting. “It’s wrong,” he said. “If you don’t like it, go home.”
“This is America,” he said as the rainbow flags waved. “You can do whatever you want. This is what I fought for, freedom to make your own choice.”