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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Pride Parade and Festival: Drag performers galore, centering on health and nostalgic programming

A large rainbow-striped Pride flag is carried by dozens of people during the 31st Spokane Pride Parade in downtown Spokane on June 10. This year’s parade is on Saturday.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Megan Dhein For The Spokesman-Review

Spokane Pride executive director Matthew Danielson is betting this year’s Pride is going to be bigger than ever. Six stages. Over 100 drag performers. Two beverage gardens that take up the U.S. Pavilion, programming designed to connect vulnerable populations to health resources, and a reunion show to incentivize staying out late.

Danielson has been involved with the organization since 2016, watching it grow dramatically. Back in 2016, Danielson estimated attendance was between 4,000 to 5,000 people.

“We’re probably closer to like 30,000 to 50,000 now, depending on what metrics you look at,” Danielson said.

The Spokane Pride Parade starts at noon Saturday at Stevens Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard, and will end at Howard Street and Spokane Falls, where it will empty into Riverfront Park, where the Spokane Pride Festival begins at 1 p.m. There will be drag performers narrating what’s happening in the parade.

“We’ve always had way too small of beer gardens in my opinion,” Danielson said. “So, this year we decided to fence off the Pavilion and make it into like the biggest beer garden ever and put a stage in it.”

The festival will feature a variety of programming, including Ada Vox, a drag queen performer, singer and top 10 contestant of season 16 of American Idol. A variety of other drag performances will be included, as well as comedy, bands and a Drunk Shakespeare performance from Stage Left Theater.

There will be a “Youth Zone” for those ages 13 to 18 and a Spark Pride Kids Zone for those 12 and under. There is also a Queer Youth Dance Party at 6 p.m. in the Lilac Bowl, which has been happening since 2016.

“Basically, all the adults traditionally just kind of go to the bars at a certain point after Pride,” Danielson said. “We figured since that’s not an option for people below 21, let’s give them a venue to dance and basically wind down Pride.”

Danielson hopes some evening programming will keep Pride going later. One of the shows Danielson is sure will be a hit is the Dempsey’s/Irv’s Reunion show at 7 p.m. in the Pavilion.

“We’ve had several gay bars that went under in the last 10 years, and there’s still a lot of the people that kind of romanticize that era,” Danielson said. “Not me, because I worked at both of them. We did a fundraiser in March that was the Dempsey’s Reunion Show and there was so much interest in it, we were like, ‘We have to do this at Pride.’ ”

There will be nonalcoholic beverages available, and Danielson pointed out there is plenty to do if you don’t want to consume alcohol.

“One of our big goals this year is doing more health outreach and basically making Pride not just a party, but a place that people in this vulnerable community can be connected with resources,” Danielson said.

This will include blood pressure stations and two vaccine clinics.

Another thing Spokane Pride is celebrating this year? Giving blood. In May 2023, the Food and Drug Administration issued a guidance that eliminated time-based blood donor deferral periods for gay men, reversing a 40-year ban. Spokane Pride will feature a blood drive in the park’s north parking lot off North Washington Street and North River Drive.

“We’ve got to celebrate that,” Danielson said.