Among the thousands who donned beads and boas to frolic around Pierce Transit Park at Saturday’s Out in the Park festivities stood Zella Ivanushka, 2, swaying with the music from the main stage, waving a rainbow flag and wearing a bright pink sticker handed out by the Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
Right behind her beamed her mother, Deann Ivanushka, 33, straight and an attendee of Tacoma’s Pride Festival events for years. Zella, she said, is being brought up to have an open mind and heart.
“I am trying to raise her to appreciate everyone and everything,” Deann said while her daughter took a turn pushing her own stroller. “This is our next generation, know what I mean? I don’t see anything wrong with what we’re seeing here today.”
Surrounding them, hundreds of LGBT and straight people danced and chatted along blocked-off Broadway for Out in the Park, the centerpiece of the Pride Festival. Organizers expected Out in the Park 2015 to top last year’s 8,500 visitors after adding a second music stage and seeing all 100 vendor booths claimed weeks in advance. At the festival, the increasing acceptance of LGBT culture in America — exemplified best lately by the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark June decision eliminating barriers to gay marriage — was cited from the band stage to the sidewalks as driving popularity after the event’s 20-plus years in Tacoma.
“I think that this is just growing momentum and gaining interest throughout the community, which is just great,” said Michelle Douglas, executive director of Tacoma’s Rainbow Center, the organizer of the Pride Festival.
For Kevin and Tim Fletcher-Velasco, who married in 2014 and recently moved to Tacoma, Saturday’s festivities meant a relaxed place to push their daughter’s stroller through the crowd while Claire, 2, hopped in and out as she checked out the whirl of entertainment around her, including drag queens on towering heels gliding through the crowd, volunteers handing out rainbow beads, and vendor booths from church denominations to underwear merchants.
“We like this much better than the big crazy parades,” said Kevin Fletcher-Velasco, 31. “As a family, it’s much easier.”
Kasey Arnett, 35, was handing out beads and wearing a broad grin at the north entrance to the festival. On his neck he wore a boa and a sign saying “Free Hugs.”
“Good!” he said. “Everybody wants a free hug.”
The festival had its raucous points, too. After brief speeches on the main stage, City Councilmen Ryan Mello and Anders Ibsen politely declined exhortations to start twerking.
Roman Rollins, 18, paused as she raced between music stages to watch little girls holding rainbow flags get their pictures taken with a roller skater dressed as a glimmering butterfly.
“It’s amazing to talk to people and they know exactly what you’re going through and to know exactly what they’ve gone through,” said Rollins, 18, a college student at her first Out in the Park.
She said she’ll “definitely” be going to more Pride events.
“The girls are just — ”
“Exciting,” her friend Yoyo Knerr, 15, chimed in. “And they take compliments very well.”