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News / Northwest

Yakima Pride celebrates diversity at State Fair Park

By Donald W. Meyers, Yakima Herald-Republic
Published: June 9, 2024, 2:52pm

Attendees and organizers summed up this year’s Yakima Pride Festival with two words: Bigger, safer.

The festival celebrating the Valley’s LGBTQ+ community annually since 2014 was at the State Fair Park this year. In prior years, the event took place downtown, most recently on North Naches Avenue near Yakima Pride’s offices.

Yakima Pride took the lead in organizing the annual festival in 2019.

“The move has allowed us to expand to offer more vendors and more space and have a safe, welcoming place to celebrate Pride,” said Jacob Butler, Yakima Pride’s treasurer.

And some attendees agreed.

“It feels safer,” said Talise Beazer of Yakima, who said the downtown venue felt a bit riskier to be at as anybody could just walk in.

While admission was free, Pride attendees had to go through a security checkpoint where guards searched bags and people for weapons and any other contraband.

Dianna Keith said as a transsexual woman she’s been harassed around town but appreciated the safety and diversity of the festival. She and Zoe Rothchild, her best friend, were attending Pride for the first time.

Also attending for the first time was Will Wilkie, who said it was not as large as the Pride festival in San Francisco, but said it was a “valiant” and comfortable event.

One of the hits for Rothchild was the foam pit, where people could play around in foam and bubbles, which for many was a welcome respite from the hot weather.

Butler said the move to the Fair Park allowed festival organizers to upgrade the popular attraction. Previously, the foam was just sprayed on the ground, eventually forming a shallow puddle of foam.

At the Fair Park, partitions were put up on either side, creating a genuine pit where foam could pile up to a depth of a couple feet, giving people a better experience, he said.

Another popular spot was the chalk art space near the entrance, where people could make drawings and leave messages in sidewalk chalk.

Butler said the move to the Fair Park had been in the works for several months, with the goal of getting a venue that would allow the festival to expand with more offerings, including more vendors.

In addition to food booths, a variety of groups had stalls set up around the Fair Park, including Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane, Rod’s House, and the QLaw Foundation of Washington, a nonprofit that advocates for the LGBTQ+ community.

Festival attendees thought the Yakima City Council’s 5-2 vote rejecting a Pride Month proclamation didn’t put a damper on the event.

Butler said it seemed like the festival had a greater sense of community this year, with attendance expected to be between 4,500 and 5,000 people. The goal this year, he said, was 5,000 people.