New to the Hill? You still probably know that it has been Seattle’s “gayborhood” for many years, and you may also know that there have been demographic shifts and concerns about this in the community. Those concerns will largely be swept away for the last week of June, when Capitol Hill becomes ground zero for a week of celebrations. The main parade on Sunday was moved to downtown a few years ago—and there is still controversy about that decision—but Capitol Hill remains home to the most LGBTQ (and LGBTQ-friendly) bars and LGBTQ-owned businesses in the city (including the lesbian owned Team Diva Real Estate).
Whether you are LGBTQ, new to town, visiting, or an ally of the community who wants to celebrate with friends it can be overwhelming to prepare for all the big events and activities. Never fear, though: Here is Your Insiders’ Guide to Pride!
This should be pretty obvious to veterans of big street parties and parades, but it is still rule number one because you may even underestimate the need for it. Think street vendors and jello shots, cover charges at bars and beer gardens, tipping drag queens and go-go boys, and a traditional cab when Uber’s surge pricing goes through the roof…it all adds up, and there are thousands of others who may overlook the fact there are only so many ATMs, which can and do run out of cash. No one wants to carry wads and wads of cash, especially in a rowdy festival setting, so do the math based on your planned activities…then add a 20 or two, because Pride is known for taking people places they didn’t expect, and it’s best to be prepared.
You have to dress for the occasion…and for some that will be an itchy rainbow wig and novelty sunglasses, but for the men who want to strut their stuff, this probably isn’t the best look. A cute pair of underwear and/or some leather gear is probably on the docket, and luckily you can get both write on Pike Street (preferably before the event itself). Danial Hellman underwear and swimwear is available at Retail Therapy (905 Pike St), locally-made to flatter and flaunt in square-cut, classic briefs and a variety of patterns and colors. Naturally, there are rainbow striped ones, but we’re pretty fond of the Rainbows and Unicorns print, while others will be charmed by the kitten head print, no doubt. If kittens aren’t your thing but pups and collars are, take a walk up the street to Doghouse Leathers at 1312 Pike St for your harness, leather jockstrap and other toys and accessories.
Sex and sexuality are a big part of Pride, naturally, but Pride has always been an inter-generational event and more youth and families are taking part than ever before. While things get hot in the clubs, there are tamer events that celebrate LGBTQ perspectives and diversity around town.
This Saturday, June 13th, the Pride Picnic at Volunteer Park is a family friendly event offering a $1 picnic meal (hot dog, side dishes, refreshment and sweet treat) and all the proceeds benefit non-profit YouthCare. There will be free live entertainment from local bands, other live performances, photo booths and plus lots of kid-friendly activities, including bouncy houses and picnic games. It’s a great way to kick off Pride-month celebrations al fresco with the whole family. There is another family-friendly park party at Cal Anderson Park on the same afternoon, where you can see the lovely DonnaTella Howe and DJ Tony Burns (who will be two of the main attractions at our Divas Take the Hill party next week), so you can land a full day out with family and friends.
The following Saturday, June 20th is Official Pride Asia at Hing Hay Park (423 Maynard Ave S) starting at noon. Hosted by founder, Aleksa Manila, the event celebrates the large out Asian community in the region, with music from JKPop DJ BISHIE, performances and a keynote speech from Washington Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu.
Then comes the big weekend of parades and outdoor parties, starting on Friday, June 26th with the Trans* Pride march and celebration. The crowd assembles at 5 PM at the north end of Seattle Central Community College (1701 Broadway Ave), and at 6 PM proceeds on a short march to Cal Anderson Park, where there will be speakers and performances from 7 PM to 10 PM. See the Trans Pride site for details and updates, as the state of construction will affect the route and the means of assembly.
Saturday, June 27th, the Capitol Hill Pride March and Rally begins at the south end of Broadway at 10 AM. Floats and community leaders and, of course, the fabulous Dykes on Bikes will turn Capitol Hill’s main avenue even gayer and livelier than usual (in spite of all the construction). The event will put special attention on the legacy of the Stonewall riots. Throughout the day and past sunset, there will be performances and activities (including a Doggie Drag Competition benefitting the Seattle Humane Society Pet Project.) In the evening, the Dyke March begins at 5 PM and loops around the hill starting from SCCC. At 7:30 PM, youth performance group Diverse Harmony returns for their 13th season with an all-ages performance at the Broadway Performance Hall (1625 Broadway Ave, part of the SCCC campus). All ages are welcome, and youth under 22 get in free. ($20 for adults)
Sunday, June 28th is the massive downtown Pride Parade. Go early, bring chairs, and park yourself near a place that has a bathroom, if at all possible. The crowd gets intense. The parade ends at Seattle Center, where the festivities continue with multiple stages providing live entertainment all afternoon for the crowds feasting on street food, gathering in 21+ beer gardens, baking in the sun (if the weather is like previous years) then cooling off in the great International Fountain, whose 9,000 gallon capacity spouts jets in all directions. Bring your swimwear and get delightfully drenched. Expect some nudity in the fountain.
From bingo to drag balls, from black leather to white parties, from beer gardens to cruises, the events this month show the diversity of interests, tastes and visions in the LGBTQ community. Here are just a few of our suggested highlights in chronological order.
June 18: Divas Take the Hill
Of course we have to start this list with our own party, Divas Take the Hill, whose proceeds will benefit the new shelter program of PSKS, serving at-risk and homeless youth and young adults. It happens Thursday, June 18th, starting at 7 PM at the 12th Ave Arts Center in the heart of Capitol Hill. Co-hosts DonnaTella Howe and Miss Kitty Baby are joined by a lineup of some of Seattle’s finest drag kings, queens, go-go boys, burlesque performers and DJ Tony Burns. Wine and a special cocktail by OOLA Distillery will be available for guests 21+. It’s our fifth year throwing Divas Take the Hill, and every year has been bigger and better than the last. Learn more and get your tickets online at Brown Paper Tickets. (VIP seating has sold out. $20 at the door, $15 general seating advance, $10 for students, 18+)
June 19 and 20: Bacon Strip at Theatre off Jackson
One of Seattle’s longest running queer cabaret nights Bacon Strip brings a full on Pride her-story lesson with drag queens and choreographed go-go boys aplenty. Friday and Saturday, June 19th and 20th, bask in the hammy goodness of it all with host Sylvia O’Stayformore. Advanced tickets are $15. $20 at the door. (21+)
June 21 and 24: Cathedral and ArtHaus at Kremwerk
Cathedral at Kremwerk is one of the city’s most outrageous, inventive and experimental club nights, and this Pride edition encourages everyone to really let their freak flag fly. Sunday, June 21st at Kremwerk (1809 Minor Ave), high-concept queens Butylene O’Kipple and Harlotte O’Scara co-host a night of new drag and dance music, with DJs David Sylvester (PDX) and Daddi Dario (SEA), from 9 PM to 3 AM.
On Wednesday, June 24th, another one of Seattle’s wildest drag nights comes to a close. ArtHaus has pitted local drag houses in competition based on their costuming and performing chops, and as the organizers prepare to move to California, Pride month makes for the perfect grand finale. This will be a battle royale competition between Haus of Tree and Waffle Haus, hosted by Cherry & Dita Sur Bête with DJ Ozma Otacava spinning.
Individual tickets are available, as is a festival pass for all events at Kremwerk. All events are 21+. Check them out and buy passes online.
June 25: Gender Blender at Neumos
Local promoter Kevin Kauer (AKA NARK) throws his 5th annual Gender Blender blast on Thursday, June 25th at Neumos (925 E Pike St). These parties always feature some of the hottest national drag talent. This year includes Violet Chachki, Miss Fame and Ginger Minj, with darling diva BenDelaCreme hosting. Expect a young, creative crowd, great new music, fabulous club kids, lots of dancing and surprises. It all benefits the community services at Gay City. Tickets available here. ($35 advance, $70 VIP, 21+)
June 26: Rainbow Bingo
Going to be on your feet all weekend? Or maybe you’ll mostly be on your back. No matter what you plan for Saturday and Sunday, you can put your feet up and let someone else handle the balls for a night before the big parades. Friday, June 26th, Sylvia O’Stayformore hosts a night of food, fun, wit and cash prizes at the West Seattle Senior Center (4217 SW Oregon St). Buy tickets in advance if you plan to attend, as this event often sells out. ($15, 21+)
If you’ve gone out a few nights in advance of the major festivities, your dance card may already be full for the weekend. That just tends to happen, even if you just end up going out to one of the parades and meet some people at the parks or Seattle Center. But if you find yourself in a group cruising without a plan, it’s good to know a few things and be prepared.
- The Hill has tons of great restaurants, but unless you reserve in advance, don’t expect to find a seat. You may want to eat elsewhere before going out to the clubs and bars.
- Plan to cab it, and plan for the cab to take a while. Parking on Capitol Hill on any given day is difficult. During Pride, don’t even try. Take a bus. Take a cab. Park a few miles away and go by foot. Just don’t drive in and expect to find anything.
- If you want to get into Wild Rose and Purr, which have adjacent outdoor beer gardens, go early and get stamped.
- The go early and get stamped rule applies double to The Cuff on Sunday. As the biggest gay dance floor in town, The Cuff will be packed to the brim with sun-burned, sweaty men—bears, gym bunnies, otters, twinks, pups, the whole menagerie—and if you think you just might end up there, just play it safe and get that tramp in advance.
- Also—and not to be cynical—don’t expect to find love. Expect to get lost in crowds, see a lot of messy behavior and maybe get a little messy yourself, hug a lot of people, see some butts, raise your eyebrows, dance, dance, and dance some more, make friends for a night or for life, and hopefully make a lot of memories. But finding Mr or Ms or Mx Right in the mix is like finding a unicorn and a rainbow and leprechaun in the same place, so just show love to all that you can and you’ll probably never regret it!