Palouse celebrates pride

Due to a later date, this year WSU and U of I students were able to attend

ALEX LARSON FREEMAN | The Daily Evergreen

L.A. BRYAN, Evergreen reporter

Under the sun-dappled shade of Moscow’s East City Park, hundreds gathered at noon Saturday to celebrate the 23rd annual Palouse Pride Festival.

Participants marched in the Pride Parade that originated in downtown Moscow. Participants wound their way through streets packed with pedestrian traffic from the farmer’s market to the park, ten blocks away.

The festival, organized by Inland Oasis, a volunteer organization dedicated to supporting local LGBTQ community, featured drag show performances and was hosted by drag queen Aquasha DeLusty, who enraptured the crowd with her wit and multiple wardrobe changes.

During her welcome speech, DeLusty mentioned that those in the LGBTQ community often need to create their own families, since, historically, familial relationships have not always been supportive.

While that fact is still true for many today, Saturday’s festival was filled with families, with children and dogs rivaling the number of adults in attendance.

Stacey Holbrook and her family wore matching rainbow tie-dye shirts that read “Holbrook Pride” to show support for Vincent, the oldest Holbrook son.

“Our son recently came out to us, last year,” she said. “We’ve lived in Moscow for a long time and always supported gays and lesbians, and transgender and queer rights, and this is the first time we get to spend it with our family and for our family and support our son.”

Rainbow tie-dye was the festival’s preferred motif for fashions. Unsurprisingly, flags outnumbered both people and dogs. There were rainbow flags, pride flags, American flags and transgender pride flags. They were waved and worn around shoulders, tucked into pockets, attached to strollers and used to accessorize dogs. They were so ubiquitous they were even, at times, a hazard to unsuspecting passers-by.

“Don’t poke someone’s eye out with your flag,” a mother said, eyeing her child’s exuberance.

Though there were some concerns about counter-protesters before the event, the festival remained uninterrupted and peaceful throughout.

Moscow Police Officer McKenzie Fosberg, one of two officers working the event, noted that she hadn’t seen anything that might have put a damper on the festivities.

Mayo, a junior psychology student at WSU, agreed.

“I was a little shocked that so many people showed up because Northern Idaho isn’t known to be the most welcoming place,” she said. “But the fact that there were so many people that came out was cool.”

Community support was a persistent presence during the event. Several Moscow City Council members emphasized the importance of voting and involvement. Matthew Sutherland, WSU alumnus and democratic challenger to Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ 5th district, also spoke.

The spiritual and philosophical side of the community was also heavily represented with both religious and humanist organizations from around the Palouse. Among them was Linda Young, rector at St. James Episcopal Church in Pullman.

“You might be wondering,” Young said. “What in the world is a Christian doing in a place like this? You know what, this is where we should be because God is love.”

Besides Aquasha DeLusty, other performers in the drag show included Misty Boxx, Lil’ Romeo, Elliet Sterling, Kylie Unlikely, Corbin Thicke and Diana Fire, a high school friend of DeLusty’s who traveled from Portland to perform.

LUKE HOLLISTER | The Daily Evergreen
Aquasha DeLusty, a pride march leader, speaks about progress and setbacks the LGBTQ community has made in the U.S. before introducing other speakers on to the stage Saturday at the Palouse Pride Festival in Moscow.

In addition to entertainment, Inland Oasis also provided a transgender clothing exchange, consisting of several tables of clothing for trans people to use as needed.

Mercury Marvin Sunderland, 18, a creative writing major at the University of Idaho, was thankful for the support.

“Clothing is pretty expensive, and you’re pretty poor when you’re a college student.” he said. “I got a nice dress shirt.”

While Moscow and the Palouse are supportive of the LGBTQ community, the current political climate in the U.S. has left many feeling wary and uncertain.

Robert McKinnon Wilkes of Humanists of the Palouse was among them.

“I’m honestly terrified of 2017 America,” he said. “I think it’s a qualitatively different administration than what we’ve seen before. And it’s pretty scary.”

Marisa Gibler, president of the board at the Unitarian Universal Church of the Palouse, agreed with his sentiment, but thought that the charged political climate might, paradoxically, spur positive involvement.

“In the past year, all of the events I’ve gone to,” Gibler said. “Every single one of them, there’s been at least one person [who] come up and say ‘I’ve never gone to a march before, I’ve never gone to a march. But now I feel like I need to.’ ”