by Shaun Knittel
SGN Associate Editor
The visual was stunningly beautiful: A Pride flag contingent, bigger than any that had ever been, marching along the Pride parade route toward Seattle Center for PrideFest in steady, poetic motion.
As the last contingent of the 2011 Pride Parade, the flag, owned by One Degree Events (the organization that produces the annual PrideFest), made a lasting impression. The theme for this year's PrideFest was 'Live Proud.' The flag said exactly that, in not so many words. And we did live proud; the 2011 PrideFest was the most successful in the event's five-year history, with 100,000 people witnessing the giant Pride flag being carried into - and at one point, over - the throngs of Pride revelers.
'I got the flag for the community so we had our own giant flag to march with, to raise, to travel to other cities to represent Seattle, and to have for special events,' Egan Orion, PrideFest producer, told Seattle Gay News. 'The rainbow is a powerful symbol for our community, and on Pride Sunday this year, the color and diversity celebrated by the flag got to march with, dance under, and witness this special rainbow flag.'
Just before 9 p.m. on June 26, a PrideFest production manager pulled the flag out of a moat next to the Fountain Beer Garden to stage it for pickup by One Degree Events officials.
That was the last time anyone from the organization saw the flag.
The PrideFest flag measures 35 by 70 feet and weighs over 100 lbs. 'It was rolled up like a big rainbow sausage,' said Egan. 'The flag is so big it would've taken two or three people to carry it away.'
Egan told SGN that, at first, he thought it was all just a big misunderstanding. Someone obviously packed it up by accident. Surely no one would steal the flag, an emblem of the day's success and the community's Pride. But his summation soon turned to disappointment as, after making some calls and asking around, he realized the flag had, indeed, been taken.
'The flag belongs to our community, not just one organization or person,' said Egan. 'It's powerful not for just one day, but all year long.'
Egan and One Degree Events want the flag back. And they intend to get it - with your help. Egan contacted SGN to ask anyone who might know the whereabouts of the PrideFest flag to step forward and speak up.
One Degree Events will make a $2,000 donation to the It Gets Better program if the flag is returned. 'If you took the flag and are too embarrassed to return it, find a Gay-friendly business on Capitol Hill and just drop it off,' said Egan.
Gay City Health Project and the Seattle Gay News offices are two of the designated flag drop-off points. You can also contact Egan directly at firstname.lastname@example.org - no questions asked.
As Egan said, this particular flag made an impact, and we'd love to see it returned to the capable hands of an organization that has dedicated the last five years to putting together a stellar Pride festival for the community.
During the 2011 Pride Parade, the flag began its journey with 'about 20 people carrying it, and it added people as the parade rolled along,' said Egan. 'At one point, there was somebody on every single handle of the flag, and since it has handles every 18 inches, that amounts to over 120 people.'
The idea was to carry it into PrideFest, over the heads of the people at the DJ stage at the fountain so they could dance under it (which happened), and then take it to the main stage for delivery to Egan.
'The flag lead for the day was confused about which stage was the main stage and took it to the DJ stage instead, where, exhausted, he tucked it somewhere he thought was secure,' explained Egan.
'We had plans to possibly march with it in the Vancouver parade, but really intended to have it as a flag for our community,' he said. 'With all the issues regarding flying the flag on top of the Space Needle, I got the flag so we had a massive flag just for us, one that we owned as a community and could use every year at Pride to show just how proud we are.'
'The PrideFest flag touched, literally and figuratively, thousands of people this year,' said Egan. 'People who had a chance to carry it, or dance underneath it, or just see its beautiful rainbow colors pass by were touched - some even to the point of saying it was a spiritual experience for them. It helped to connect people, inspire others, and had others looking on in awe.'
'To the person who took it, I just ask for its safe return,' he told SGN. 'What on earth would you use a flag like that for? You can't fly it, and if you take it out next year, it's immediately identifiable by its size and by a couple of other identifiers only we know.'
If the missing flag is not a misunderstanding and the perpetrators are caught, they could be charged with second-degree theft under Washington state law. This is considered a Class C felony, with a maximum sentence of five years in jail and/or a $10,000 fine.
As of press time, Egan and One Degree Events filed a police report and will review Seattle Center security to try to identify who took the flag.
'If the flag is returned before we find those who stole it, we will not pursue the criminal side of this any further,' said Egan. 'We hate that it's come to this, but this appears to be criminal behavior, and as the Space Needle learned - and we learned in the various things that popped up in the weeks before Pride - don't fuck with the Gays!'
'You may have taken a giant piece of fabric, but what people experienced last Sunday when they were touched by the PrideFest flag is something you cannot take away,' he said. 'If you're part of the LGBT community, do the right thing and make sure this flag gets back to PrideFest - then when you see the flag go by next year, you'll know you did the right thing.'
'If somebody outside of our community took it, please understand that this flag is sacred and precious to us, and that its taking was the smallest shadow on the brightest of days for our community,' continued Egan. 'It may be just a flag, but to us it means much more: freedom, expression, diversity, love, beauty, and most of all, pride in ourselves and in our community.'
'Please return it. Tens of thousands of people will be looking for it, so they can either track you down or you can get the collective love of the community for returning it,' said Egan. 'You choose.'
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