COVID-19 restrictions brought challenges to planning this year’s Kitsap Pride event, but working through those challenges has created an opportunity to try something new.
The 25th annual Kitsap Pride festival is 4-9 p.m., July 31, at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds (a change from the event’s typical location at Evergreen Rotary Park). This year’s event features a “Coming Out Concert” starting at 7 p.m. and headlined by the Kim Archer Band, with DJ Dana Dub and drag performances offering entertainment earlier in the evening.
Admission to the event is free, but people can support it financially by purchasing a $25 plush rainbow blanket.
Last year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kitsap Pride put on a drive-thru event, featuring decorated cars, free swag, and “Pride in a Box” kits people ordered in advance.
Things are getting somewhat back to normal this year, but as the event was being planned, a number of COVID-19 restrictions were still in place and outdoor gatherings were limited to 400 people, said Kitsap Pride President Michael Goodnow. With those restrictions in mind, the group planned an outdoor concert.
Now that restrictions have loosened, there is no limit on the number of attendees, and the event will feature many elements from past Pride festivals: a beer garden, more than 40 vendors (including artisans, local businesses and nonprofits, and more), and a teen space and other youth activities hosted by the Boys and Girls Club.
One benefit of holding the event at the fairgrounds is that it can accommodate a greater number of people at one time; the parking capacity alone is a benefit, Goodnow said. “We’re certainly excited to see how this works,” he said.
Everything will be outdoors, and the event will follow any COVID-19 restrictions or guidelines in place once the event rolls around.
“We are asking folks who participate that if they are not fully vaccinated to wear a mask,” Goodnow said. The Kitsap Public Health District will be onsite to administer COVID-19 vaccines to those who would like one, but people receiving vaccines at the event will still need to wear a mask since it takes two weeks to develop antibodies. The health district will also offer HIV testing and provide info on PrEP, medication that prevents HIV.
People are sometimes confused by the fact that Kitsap Pride takes place in July rather than June, which is Pride Month. Goodnow noted that Pride isn’t limited to a single month. “Pride happens absolutely around the calendar, and around the globe,” he said, later adding, “It’s not like we’re late to the game.” Kitsap Pride has always taken place the third weekend of July until this year, because the fairgrounds weren’t available that weekend.
Kitsap Pride has always had a different feel to it than larger events in cities like Seattle. “The scale of it’s smaller, but we estimate that we get almost 4,000 people in the festival throughout the day … We try to offer a lot of the same things, just on a scale that feels more like Kitsap,” Goodnow said.
Kitsap Pride’s first priority is bringing the community together, Goodnow said. “If we can’t connect as a community, then it’s harder to connect for advocacy,” he said. The organization has tried to offer events throughout the year to keep people connected. “For a long time here in Kitsap I would maybe meet someone at Pride who would say, ‘It’s my first time coming here,’ and then I always felt like, what am I going to say? ‘OK, see you next year!’? So we try to do some stuff throughout the year to keep people connected.”
The organization is all-volunteer, so although it doesn’t currently have the capacity to offer services such as counseling, it’s able to direct people to available services in the community.
Get more info on Kitsap Pride and stay up to date on upcoming events at kitsappride.org/.
Featured Photo: Rainbow flags fly at Evergreen Rotary Park during the 2016 Kitsap Pride festival (Kitsap Scene File Photo)
Steven Wyble is an award-winning journalist who has written for both daily and weekly newspapers.