[Written by Heather Aronno - Originally published at the Alaska Commons on June 7, 2013]
On the eve of the beginning of Alaska Pridefest, Anne Marie Moylan is one proud mama. Her daughter, Kate Lanier-Moylan, was just awarded a scholarship from the Pride Foundation, along with Christopher Dietrich. Pride Foundation is a philanthropic organization that lends support to LGBT causes in the northwestern part of the Lower 48 and Alaska. Moylan is also proud of the work she’s put in to this year’s Pridefest, along with her three co-chairs, or as they call themselves: quad-chairs.
Pridefest is an annual event comprising a week of activities for families, youth, elders, and everyone in between. Festivities begin this year with the Town Square Kick-Off, a family-friendly celebration featuring live music by Agents of Karma.
Representatives from every Pridefest event have been invited to speak briefly about what will be happening over the next week in order to give attendees a preview and a chance to find out more details.
And what a week!
This year’s Pridefest features events ranging from a luau at The Raven to hiking to a film festival to Drag Queen Bingo. One of the biggest events (and probably the most familiar to the casual celebrant) is a parade that wraps around downtown Anchorage and ends at the Delaney Parkstrip, where participants celebrate with food, music,and sampling the wares from the various vendor booths.
But this year, things are going to be a little different: instead of a parade with floats, vehicles and banners, this year will have a “Celebrating Diversity March.” And, Moylan says, a little bit of a dance party.
“Specifically, we’re going to have a dance party that takes us from a perspective of when the gay movement was quiet, and I’m talking ‘disco quiet.’ When people were going to clubs in big cities and they were dancing in lieu of being found out, to the point of now, where actually, we’re the one’s who have the hippest, trendiest music. You got to a gay club because it’s the place to go.
And now we’re going to actually turn this corner to increase the beat. We’re going to move to electronica, to rap, to a perspective of youth and their involvement. That has changed musically, as well as the perspective of the whole movement. So we put it together and, culturally, there is a shift. And we’re going to present all of it on that Saturday.”
Drew Phoenix, also a co-chair of Identity, Inc. and one of the other Pridefest quad-chairs, points out that a march is also more accessible than a parade.
“This is for everybody, no matter who you are. And also, I think, much more inclusive of allies…Part of it was sort of going back to our roots as a political movement. A march is more of a movement than a parade, which is more spectator participant.”
Moylan describes the scene from last year’s parade, where at first she says she did see many spectators. However, as the parade wrapped around the parkstrip, she realized that the parade seemed longer than usual. And then she realized that the “pockets of emptiness” she was seeing on the sidewalk was because people were getting up and joining the parade.
“I said, ‘this is remarkable! Well, no wonder there’s nobody watching. People are in the parade!’ So why not really transform this and make it much more emotional and more hip?”
In a way, by bucking the tradition of the parade, this year’s Pridefest is returning to its roots and embracing an older tradition of activism and inclusion.
According to Phoenix, this year’s Pridefest also marks a positive step forward in terms of local business participation as sponsors or vendors.
“We have over 60 vendors for the Pridefest [on Saturday, June 15], which is phenomenal. I think businesses see our economic power, and are taking note and getting involved. Which is big. Brand new.”
While both organizers acknowledge that Pride festivities may not mean the same thing to every participant, Moylan says that she hopes people will give themselves the chance to take part in the festivities.
“It’s not for me to define another human being or their sexuality. It’s not for me to define what kind of a good time they’re going to have at this event. I couldn’t say ‘for you it’s political’ or ‘for you it’s emotional,’ I could only say that ‘it will affect you deeply. It will move you in a way that you will forever be changed, and will mark that point as a turning ground, for what you felt was a positive shift in Anchorage, Alaska.’”
Pridefest events start on Saturday, June 8 and run through Sunday, June 16. For a full schedule and list of sponsors, go to the event website: alaskapride.org.