With Washington so close to reopening at the end of June, it’s especially cruel that the pandemic thwarted Pride events for yet another year. Seattle Pride is going virtual again, and with Egan Orion’s PrideFest yet-to-be-announced, the focus is off the bigger events and put on smaller, neighborhood-based Pride festivities—which might not be such a bad thing after all.
Most Pride events take place in June, but there’s one community celebration that’s found its own place later in the summer, and it happens to be the only Pride event in Washington that takes place on a beach. Now in its eighth year, Alki Beach Pride offers plenty of sandy waterfronts to pitch a canopy or beach umbrella. There are fire pits, contests and prizes, a car parade and skate/bike/board "Roll OUT," and partnerships with over 23 bars and restaurants all along Alki Avenue and into White Center. For those looking for a Pride free of corporate sponsorship and (mostly) without cops, that's just how Alki's done it for over eight years.
“We’re not crowded yet. It’s very family-oriented,” said Stacy Bass-Walden, who co-founded and continues to organize the event with her wife, Jolie. Bass-Walden is also one of the few Black lesbian Pride organizers in the state. “Alki Beach Pride is still considered a community Pride event because it’s within a community. We’re all in this together, working together.”
“That is part of the reason that I made the event become public—people need to see that Alki is diverse, in age and people of color."
This year’s Alki Beach Pride will center around a car parade led by women’s motorcycle collective Rainier Ravens on Saturday, and a skate/bike/board Roll OUT led by Roll Around Seatown on Sunday. There will also be the first annual Volley Fest, a beach volleyball tournament produced by Seattle Volleyball Club in conjunction with Alki Beach Pride. Like last year, the event will opt out of a main stage to discourage dense crowds and promote social distancing, although restaurants and bars along Alki Avenue will have their own entertainment for the occasion. This year’s event is produced in partnership with the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, and in collaboration with Pacific Northwest Black Pride, POCAAN (People of Color Against AIDS Network), Diversity Alliance of the Puget Sound, Queery Seattle, ACLU of Washington, and AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
Alki Beach Pride is a free, not-for-profit event made possible by a team of volunteers and donors whose funds go directly to supplies. Bass-Walden coordinates with other community-based Pride events, making sure they don’t schedule on overlapping dates, and offers support. “I speak to White Center Pride, Kitsap Pride, Spokane Pride. We all work together and help each other out, even if it’s ‘Do you have ten canopies we can borrow?’”
Alki Beach Pride started over two decades ago as get-togethers with Stacy, Jolie, and their friends. Not to overlap with other Pride festivals in the city, these gatherings typically took place sometime between the Fourth of July and mid-August. Their crowd of friends and guests grew bigger every year until they decided to move across the street to the beach. They made it an official public event in 2014, which quickly turned into a crash course in learning about City Parks permits. For Bass-Walden, a massage therapist of over 26 years, event planning was something completely new, but thanks to others in West Seattle’s LGBTQ+ communities, Alki Beach Pride has only grown steadily in its own unique way. It’s a tribute to the inherent and increasing diversity of West Seattle.
“That is part of the reason that I made the event become public—people need to see that Alki is diverse, in age and people of color. The LGBTQIA+ community and allies are very visible, with Pride flags flying year-round this side of the West Seattle bridge. We’re sprinkled all up and down that neighborhood,” Bass-Walden said.
She explained that a number of restaurants and bars on Alki Avenue are LGBTQ-owned — “It’s pretty unique. It feels like its own little Capitol Hill. A lot of people just don’t know about it.” Those establishments include Harry’s Beach House, and Marination Ma Kai. Just south of Alki is the Admiral Pub, Arthur’s, Youngstown Coffee, and The Lumber Yard Bar in White Center. “We all feel very connected as far as the LGBTQ community,” Bass-Walden said.
Alki Beach Pride had its biggest event to date in 2019, with food trucks, a beach main stage by the bathhouse featuring DJs, musicians, performers, and appearances by DeAndre, Ms. Briq House, Carlarans, Izohnny, Lakin, and more. It had also grown in size enough to attract the attention of a hate group for the first time. Bass-Walden said the group made posts on social media about showing up to Alki Beach to antagonize Pride-goers. Nervous about the possibility of protesters with open-carry guns, she reached out to the Southwest Precinct for last-minute back-up. Some police presence offered visibility, but ultimately “It was handled just fine. Apparently they were there, but nowhere near the stage,” she said about the hate groups. “There were other types of very experienced security groups who kept them out.”
Alki Beach Pride has always relied on volunteer-led security safety patrol teams. This year, private and volunteer security will be coordinated by two trans-led groups, including the Diversity Alliance of the Puget Sound. Governor Inslee’s new ban on the open carry of guns at public demonstrations in April also offers a little more peace of mind.
Some residents have advocated for traffic stops or street closures during weekend nights in the summer, especially in light of what happened on May 29 when SPD responded to a robbery and fights within an unusually large crowd, closing Alki Beach around 10 p.m. Bass-Walden said it’s rare to see a crowd as large as that. There are no plans for police involvement or traffic stops during this year’s Pride, she said, though they might come around and tell you to put out your fire pit once the beach closes at 11:30 p.m.