Record-breaking crowds flocked to the Spokane Pride Parade and Rainbow Festival in Spokane on Saturday.
“I’m hearing estimates of 24,000 people,” said Steven Herevia, Spokane Pride coordinator. “The community spirit here is so alive.”
More than 100 groups signed up to be in the parade this year with 1,500 people marching, according to Michael Jepson, OutSpokane’s parade coordinator.
The event received fewer protests than in previous years. No more than five people stood in the parade’s designated protest area, across from the Riverfront Park fountain.
Parade participants included employees of companies such as Sephora, Starbucks, Nordstrom and Pemco Insurance.
Ondria Roberson brought her children to walk with her Pemco colleagues this year.
They donned matching shirts, held signs and posed for photos.
“They’ll remember this experience,” said Roberson of her decision to bring her children to the parade.
If her children end up being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, Roberson said she hopes they feel that they can talk to her.
Tina Fiechtner from the Spokane chapter of a nonprofit called Free Mom Hugs echoed the importance of family support.
Free Mom Hugs is an organization with chapters nationwide where moms show support to the LGBTQ+ community, especially those with strained family relationships.
Fiechtner’s son is Nikita Romanoff, a Spokane drag queen. Fietchtner has attended all of her son’s shows and noticed very few fellow parents in the audience, which prompted her to become more active in Free Mom Hugs.
“It started to make my heart hurt,” Fiechtner said. “I’m there for everyone to show them the love and support of a parent.”
Free Mom Hugs has more than 100 members in the Spokane chapter.
Sage Valentine stood beside her drag queen “sisters” in a floor-length rainbow skirt with a purple smoky eye to match. Valentine is part of a the Haus of Voodoo, a group of Spokane drag queens that frequently perform together.
“I see all these people living their best life and it makes me feel great,” Valentine said. “Despite whatever happens in the outside world, we rise up and we thrive.”
Organizations like PFLAG, Gay Straight Alliance clubs from various Spokane high schools, and the Trevor Project marched and received cheers from onlookers.
Spokane Fire Capt. Maeve Griffith returned to the parade this year after serving as last year’s grand marshal. This year, she had a new rig – the Spokane Station 3 fire engine.
“I think it’s important for LGBT community members to be a part of the overall Spokane community,” Griffith said.
The fire truck honked and its siren rang out over the parade, and Griffith waved from the front seat. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community herself, Griffith hopes to set an example for others with her community involvement.
“It’s not an excuse not to pursue your dreams and to be involved in the community and to help people,” Griffith said.
The parade’s theme this year was “To Thrive, Not Just Survive,” with the Rainbow Festival and an evening fireworks show to follow. Pride festivities are organized by the nonprofit OutSpokane.