Tacoma Pride Festival Celebrates Love and Equality in the City of Destiny

The generally progressive march of history toward inclusion and equality has more potholes and bumps than Tacoma’s streets.

But as with those streets following the passage of two road improvement measures, Tacoma’s LGBTQA community is seeing improvements in their effort toward equality. That effort takes center stage during the Tacoma Pride Festival.

Tacoma Pride Festival events
The Pride festival provides a host of entertainment from family friendly to more risqué acts in an effort to provide something for everyone. Photo courtesy: Rainbow Center.

The kickoff of the growing festival will be the official raising of the Rainbow flag over City Hall on July 8. The centerpieces of the Tacoma Pride Festival will be family-friendly Out in the Park during the daylight hours on July 9 and the epically thunderous and equally awesome Tacoma Pride Block Party at night for the 21+ crowd. The festivities don’t end with the lowering of the dance beats at The Mix since festival organizers have a host of events, film screenings and presentations.

“We have a whole series of events,” Rainbow Center Executive Director Michelle Douglas said. “They’re not just all on one day. It’s a list of non-stop activities. There is just so much going on. It’s going to be a great week. I hope it’s approachable to everyone.”

The festival includes an awards ceremony, a film festival at the Grand Cinema and other activities that will likely draw upwards of 15,000 people.

The Pride Festival of today started from humble beginnings decades ago with a community picnic in Wright Park that grew to be a festival and outgrew the park itself. That growth gave way to the relocation to Broadway and Theatre on the Square, which it has also since outgrew. This year’s Out in the Park will be held along Pacific Avenue between 7th and 9th Streets.

“I’m excited to see how the new space works out,” Douglas said.

But the Tacoma Pride Festival isn’t looking to grow just to add to the number of its attendees at the cost of its community and “Tacoma” vibe.

“Tacoma is its own little, big city,” Douglas said. “(The festival) just has more now because we have grown. It’s a good size now.”

Tacoma Pride Festival flag
The raising of the Rainbow flag over City Hall will mark the official start of Tacoma Pride Festival. Photo courtesy: Rainbow Center.

The Pride Festival, much like the rest of Tacoma, is an event where people can simply walk down the street and greet friends, family and coworkers along the way. And like any family gathering, there will be somber ties for personal reflection and calls for action. This year’s emotional swing comes as petition backers are gathering for a change in state law to bar transgender people from using the bathrooms for the gender with which they identify.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” Douglas said.

There will also be a reading of the names of the victims from the mass shooting in Orlando last month. The mass murder of 49 people and the wounding of 50 more at the Pulse nightclub, a landmark in that city’s gay community, rocked countries around the globe.

“We are still reeling as a community,” Douglas said. “Our community is in mourning. It’s good for us to get together as a community and celebrate and be together. Visibility creates change.”

Tacoma Pride Festival Highlights

A full roster of activities can be found at tacomapride.org.

  • Tacoma Pride Festival 2016 will have a formal kick off at 4:30 p.m. on July 8 at the Pantages Theatre, 901 Broadway. The event will include the annual raising of the Rainbow flag over City Hall followed by the Pride Foundation Rainbow Awards presented by State Farm Insurance.
  • Rainbow Center’s Out in the Park runs noon to 5:00 p.m. on July 9 along Pacific Avenue, between 7th and 9th streets. The festival will offer family-friendly vendors, entertainment, food and informational booths.
  • Tacoma Pride Festival performance
    The Mix’s Tacoma Pride Block Party includes acts in the landmark gay bar as well as acts on an outdoor stage. Photo credit: Steve Dunkelberger.

    Destiny City Queer Fem Con will run from noon to 4:00 p.m. on July 9 at 218 St. Helens to celebrate all the things comic book feminism and queerdom have to offer.

  • The Mix’s Pride Block Party runs from 5:00 p.m. July 9 to 2 a.m. July 10 at 635 St Helens Ave.
  • Immanuel Presbyterian Church will host “Crossing the Threshold… Again! – An Evening of Live Storytelling” at 7:00 p.m. on July 10 at 901 N. J St. The evening will provide live stories from the LGBTQA community about transformative spiritual experiences. In a cabaret atmosphere, storytellers will share real-life experiences of faith, religion, and spirituality that transformed the way they live, love and connect with the world.
  • The Grand Cinema will screen Tacoma Pride Film Series on July 13 at 606 S. Fawcett Ave.
  • Oasis Youth Center will host a Big Hat Brunch at 11:00 a.m. on July 16 at 2215 Pacific Ave. to raise money for the center with an irreverent celebration of queer youth.


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