An interesting group of activists were seen on the streets of downtown Puyallup early Saturday during the annual Meeker Days Festival – men in high heels.
City officials and residents from East Pierce County participated in Puyallup’s first Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, part of an international movement designed to raise awareness about domestic violence.
Puyallup City Council member Steve Vermillion, who brought the idea to the city after walking in Tacoma’s event last year, was one of many officials who donned a dress and walked a mile – literally – in women’s shoes.
Members of the Daffodil Festival royal court led the way, including Daffodil Queen Kenna Erhardt of Rogers High School. She said she’s never walked in a parade with men in women’s clothing.
“This is a first,” she said.
The event included a 5K fun run. Both events raised money for the Sexual Assault Center of Pierce County and Good Samaritan Behavioral Health, which has a domestic violence program that provides free counseling and a support group for local victims.
Nancy Shattuck, Puyallup’s victim advocate, said that the majority of men aren’t perpetrators of violence against women and the walk is an alternate way of giving a voice to an issue that isn’t often talked about.
“It is a fun way to talk about a really difficult subject,” Shattuck said Thursday.
Christy Stapleton, a clinical therapist, said Good Sam’s grant-funded domestic violence program has been around for more than 10 years and served 200-plus women and girls last year.
About 1 in 4 women have experienced violence at some point in their lifetime, Shattuck said, and it is an issue that doesn’t discriminate.
“It’s not a women’s issue,” she said. “It’s a societal issue.”
Vermillion said he’s dealt with issues of domestic violence, both personally and professionally, that have inspired him to raise awareness.
“After walking in Tacoma (last year) we thought ‘Why not bring (the event) here?’” he said.
Saturday’s fundraiser was part of the 74th annual Meeker Days Festival, which is organized by the Puyallup Main Street Association and offers activities and entertainment to Puyallup and East Pierce County residents.
“It really brings the whole city together,” said festival coordinator Paige Griffith.
This year’s three-day event attracted more than 250 vendors and all-day musical acts at four venues downtown, including two former finalists from NBC’s entertainment reality show “The Voice.”
Season one finalist Beverly McClellan headlined Friday night and season three finalist Amanda Brown was scheduled to perform Saturday evening.
Griffith said Meeker Days attracts between 80,000 and 100,000 people each year.
“It’s a celebration of our city’s heritage,” she said.
The event continues Sunday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
This year’s festival included the Walk a Mile event and 5K for the first time, but Griffith said the goal is to host both again.
“We want to continue to partner with the city so it can keep growing,” she said.Highlights from Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event