The last parade I marched in...

Two years ago, I was hungry and wanted some bagels. So I headed up to Broadway where Noah's Bagels had a shop. I walked across the crowd at Seattle Central Community College.

A wide assortment of wildly dressed and undressed people milled about. There were men in leather. People with bull horns. Women wearing nothing but panties, strategically places adhesive circles, and leashes held by other women. And of course we can't forget the drag queens, bikes, and assorted Village People cliches.

Since Noah's was closed I tried to go home, but the sidewalks were crowded. So I step into the street to walk around the crowd. Next thing I know the hundreds of people in the crowd are walking along with me.

At first I though I must be paranoid. Then I looked forward and saw that police had stopped traffic, and this was no mere Sunday crowd. It was organized. And the organizers began to move the crowd forward and across the street.

It was then I realized I was marching in a Gay Pride parade.

At this point, my hopes of getting bagels had been pretty much been dashed. And since I didn't happen to have any placards or appropriate talents for this group, I continued on with them for only a block, until I could break free and head home.

As I drove down Denny today, I saw a number of people on their way to the Seattle Center. A guy in a cowboy hat, short shorts, and boots. Another guy in a mini-toga with olive leaves in his hair. Women in matching outfits holding hand. And all sort of colors. That can only mean one thing in Seattle.

Once again, it's Gay Pride Weekend.

This year's celebrations were bigger than ever. The moved the parade from Capitol Hill and Broadway to down town and Belltown because it has grown so much.

This is a controversial move. On one hand, it's a recognition of how big and important the gay and lesbian community has become in Seattle. And not only big, but also mainstream. The parade moved from an alternative neighborhood to heart of the city's business and high-end residential neighborhoods. And the parade wraps up at the Seattle Center, home of Folklife, Bumbershoot, Bite of Seattle, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, the Space Needle, Science Fiction Museum, and Experience Music Project.

But many long time supporters would rather see the parade and celebration back in Capitol Hill. It's home to a large gay, lesbian, and alternative population, with many gay owned businesses. And it's where the celebrations began years ago.

The Seattle Pi touches on the controversy fairly well.

As usual, the Dykes on Bikes started Seattle's annual Gay Pride Parade, revving their motorcycles. They were followed by the customary drag queens, and men dressed only in tight briefs who danced atop floats, and politicians in search of votes.
Organizers this year moved the parade from Broadway to a new route from Fourth Avenue and Union Street, through Belltown to the Seattle Center partly for the symbolism of having the party run through the heart of the city instead of in the city's historically gay neighborhood.
Kershner said the idea of the parade marching through downtown with little incident moved him to tears.
"To hear the disco music ricocheting off the 40-story buildings, I thought we finally brought the gay community out. Nobody can take that away."

Despite the symbolism of moving downtown, signs of the growing acceptance of gays in mainstream society have been visible for years in the pride parade. Sunday was no different, as buses with the logos for Jose Cuervo tequila and Jagermeister liqueur, as well as the Wells Fargo stagecoach, were intermixed with the drag queens and such Seattle politicians as Mayor Greg Nickels.
Nickels, as he walked down Fourth Avenue, was asked whether he thought the parade should be downtown or on Broadway. He laughed, "You're not going to get me to go there."
The ordinariness of all was a step forward for some and a loss for others.
"If it wasn't for the rainbow flags, I feel like I could be at any festival right now," said Chris Barnes, 55. "That uniqueness is gone."

And to this day, whenever I eat a bagel in Seattle, I'm reminded of the time I accidentally marched in a parade.

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