Vancouver’s most colorful event of the summer, Saturday in the Park Pride, will be back in full swing from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday in Esther Short Park. The LGBTQ Pride event will offer the same rainbow of entertainment, artisan vendors and community resources as it has for nearly three decades, plus a well-known headliner. Mary Lambert achieved fame in the Grammy-nominated song “Same Love” with rap artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis as well as her chart-toppers “Secrets” and “She Keeps Me Warm.”
The event has been on hiatus for the last two years because of the pandemic, except for scaled-back online celebrations in 2020 and 2021. This year, organizers are thrilled about returning to an in-person event — especially Vancouver USA Pride vice presidents Jennifer Lanier and her wife, Dustina Haase-Lanier. They’ve been working toward this day for many months in addition to running the year-round fundraising, outreach and support services that Vancouver USA Pride provides to the LGBTQ community. Lanier and Haase-Lanier have been to Pride celebrations all over the country but say that smaller, locally focused events like Vancouver’s are the best.
“The small ones are frankly awesome,” Lanier said. “I think they’re more awesome than many of the larger ones, like New York and all that, because they’re very specific to their location. They’re showing who they are. That’s what we like about Saturday in the Park Pride. This is our town’s Pride.”
It’s an event with a long history in Vancouver, stretching back to the first Saturday in the Park Pride event in 1994, which followed a smaller, less formal gathering in 1993. The first events took place near the former Red Lion Inn at the Quay on the Vancouver waterfront. Initially, it was simply a way for LGBTQ people and their allies to share their stories and offer each other support. Saturday in the Park Pride is still an occasion for the LBGTQ community to connect but now it’s more typical of any summer festival, broadly attended by Clark County families looking for a fun day in the park. That’s a great thing to see, said Lanier and Haase-Lanier.
“It’s a lovely day for any family member. I’ve had my grandpa there and I’ve had my grandchildren there,” Haase-Lanier said. “People come over from the farmers market. It’s really fun to watch them not realize what is going on and then have them stay and enjoy the day.”
The event includes a children and youth section with games, entertainment and face painting. On the main stage, audiences can enjoy live music from local bands and singers, a Native American drum group and Vancouver-based drag performers.
“Our whole family is from Vancouver, so it was important to me that we have a celebration that is all Vancouver,” Haase-Lanier said. “So often we get lumped into the Portland metro area but we wanted a celebration that represented who we were. We try to hire only Vancouver performers and we’re committed to hiring more women and more people of color. We want to make sure that we don’t leave any groups out.”
Headliner Mary Lambert may not be from Vancouver, but the Seattle-based singer, songwriter and spoken word artist is still local to the Pacific Northwest. Lanier and Haase-Lanier saw her perform live before the pandemic and were inspired by her charisma and her music’s emotional honesty.
Though Lambert will no doubt draw crowds of fans to the park this year, the Saturday in the Park Pride drag show is still the most-anticipated highlight of the event for many attendees. (“Honestly, it’s my personal favorite part of the day,” Lanier said.) Vancouver USA Pride has also enlisted one of the drag performers to reprise “Drag Queen Story Hour” on the main stage.
The most meaningful part of the day, said Lanier and Haase-Lanier, is meeting families and individuals whose lives are better because of Vancouver USA Pride and other local nonprofit organizations who support the LGBTQ community. Saturday in the Park Pride is a time to honor that hard work and to celebrate that progress.
“You have some people coming to Pride for the first time,” Jennifer said. “There are families that are reaching out because their kids just came out. I love knowing that they aren’t going to experience the same solitude that I had to, that they’re going to find someplace safe and they’re going to find resources to help them.”