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Pride and enthusiasm at Tri-Cities weekend celebration
Pride and enthusiasm at Tri-Cities weekend celebration
by John Griffin - SGN Contributing Writer

Mid-Columbia Pride Weekend was an amazing series of events, in an area where, a few short years ago, the prevailing attitude on being out among many people ranged from reluctance to fear. Longtime Lesbian activist Dorie Flatt recalled a time when the Gay community kept itself so far under wraps that even the help-line phone was in the closet. Flatt has been open about her sexuality since she was 19 and a college student in Spokane. It was during her college years that she first found the words to describe herself, and she said it became important to her to identify herself as a Lesbian because there was so little information and so few role models available. "Now I would say I'm so far out of the closet it's become a podium," she said.

The old attitude was hard to imagine during the three days of events kicked off with the Pride Foundation's Rainbow Awards Presentations Friday night at Columbia Basin College. Forty people attended the awards ceremony, the winners were each presented with a beautiful plaque and $100 was given to their favorite not-for-profit organization. Those honored with the Columbia Basin Rainbow Awards were: Becky Mares of Yakima for her many years of outreach into the LGBT Latino population of central Washington through her work with POCAAN; Gary Wolfer of Prosser for his consistent support to our community as an allied religious leader in a rural area; Vista Youth Center of Kennewick for providing the LGBTQ youth of the Columbia Basin with vital services and doing it in way that has brought the community together in pursuit of a common goal; and PFLAG Pendleton for creating a vibrant and pertinent organization that is helping change the cultural landscape of northeastern Oregon.

Saturday, the Bettys took on the Tammys in a softball game behind Pasco City Hall that seemed to be about Pride and love more than competition, and we all know that the competition can get pretty intense at those games. Out & About provided a gathering place where the exciting moments of the action were relived and the controversies were discussed in a civilized manner. Saturday evening, the Miss Gay Columbia Basin Coronation was also at Out & About. Besides the main event, education and prevention of hepatitis was on the agenda. You've never seen inoculations received with bigger smiles, not even by a needle freak.

Sunday, the main events of the second annual Mid-Columbia Pride Celebration got underway. Pride Parade predictably started at Out & About, with the Dykes on Bikes flying the rainbow colors. All of the other elements were there, too: the community groups, the brazen drag queens, the handsome, scantily clad young men, the rainbow leis, and all the trappings that inspire pride and enthusiasm among participants and spectators alike. The parade continued to Sylvester Park, where dozens of vendors were already set up, waiting to cater to the celebrants. "We don't care what your sexual orientation or gender identity is," said Tamara Johnson, an event organizer, "we just want everybody to come together and be prideful of what we are. We open our arms to the entire community." All of the evidence I saw indicated everyone was taking that message seriously. Mid Columbia's "Got Pride" celebration featured the hilarious comedienne Vickie Shaw and musical guests The Shades.

The festivities and concluded with the Pink Party, at Out & About on Sunday evening, where everyone looked forward to the challenge of putting on something even better for next year.

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