Seattle Culture

Celebrating 50 Years of Seattle Pride

From 200 people in 1974 to more than 300,000 today, Seattle Pride has grown into Washington’s largest parade

By Carly Dykes June 7, 2024

People are celebrating at an outdoor event, holding rainbow flags and wearing colorful attire. The festive scene, marking 50 Years of Seattle Pride, is filled with smiles against a backdrop of trees.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

For Seattle, celebrating 50 years of Pride is about honoring the past while pushing for progress. This year’s theme, “NOW!,” is both a call to action and a nod to the origins of Seattle Pride, reflecting our city’s history of leading the movement for queer rights.

Seattle’s LGBTQ+ history stretches back to the late 1800s when Pioneer Square, known at the time as “Fairyville,” was a sanctuary for the queer community, housing thriving gay bars and social spaces. 

A large, diverse crowd of people standing and clapping outdoors during a daytime event, celebrating 50 Years of Seattle Pride amid green trees and grassy areas.

Seattle Pride 2022

Photo courtesy of Seattle Pride

In 1974, a picnic organized by activist David Neth brought fewer than 200 people to Occidental Square Park. This modest event marked the beginning of what would become one of Seattle’s most lively, fun, and anticipated annual traditions. Just three years later, Seattle’s first official Pride Parade took place, drawing more than 2,000 participants who marched from Occidental Square Park to Westlake Park. Today, it is Washington’s largest parade, bringing together more than 300,000 people. This year, Seattle celebrities Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird will serve as grand marshals.

Amidst the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, which profoundly impacted gay communities nationwide, Seattle became the second municipality in the nation to fund AIDS research and treatment. During this time, organizations like the People of Color Against AIDS Network (POCAAN) emerged, addressing the epidemic’s intersection with racial inequality.

Throughout the 1990s, Seattle remained a strong leader in LGBTQ+ activism. Notable milestones include the 1991 election of Sherry Harris, the first openly lesbian city council member, and the founding of Lambert House, a trailblazing drop-in center for gay youth.

Black-and-white photo of a person with a short afro, wearing a light-colored suit jacket, collared shirt, necklace, and earrings, smiling at the camera against a plain backdrop—celebrating 50 years of Seattle Pride.

Sherry Harris made history in 1991 by becoming the first openly gay African American lesbian to be elected to public office in the country.

Photo courtesy of Stonewall Youth

Since the landmark vote in 2012 to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington, Seattle has continued to strive toward equality, welcoming initiatives like the Seattle Children’s Gender Clinic and establishing the Lavender Rights Project, which addresses violence against Black trans women.

 

A group of people wearing rainbow-themed clothing and holding inflatable rainbow hearts participate in a pride parade under sunny conditions.

A group of children and adults, some wearing leis and holding pom-poms, walk together in a parade. One person holds a colorful umbrella. They appear to be celebrating a festive event outdoors.

Two drag performers holding microphones stand under a tent at an outdoor event, celebrating Seattle Pride. One wears a pink dress, and the other wears a black top with a rainbow skirt. Trees and people are visible in the background, marking 50 years of love and diversity.

Seattle Pride has been celebrating love and diversity for 50 years.

Photos courtesy of Seattle Pride

This year’s 50th annual Pride Month celebration culminates with the highly anticipated Seattle Pride Parade, showcasing more than 250 community groups, nonprofits, and companies. This year’s grand marshals are Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe.

Celebrate Pride’s golden anniversary, and join Seattle in honoring its rich LGBTQ+ history while looking forward to a future of progress. Visit or Seattle Pride, Seattle PrideFest, and Visit Seattle for more.

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