Two weekends ago, Seattle PrideFest held a sort of do-over, and it was lovely — but it wasn't enough.
In normal times, whatever those are, Pride takes over the area around the Space Needle sometime in June, but this year everything was weird. Instead of the massive parade and Seattle Center hullabaloo, PrideFest sidled on up to Capitol Hill, where Pride used to take place, and took over a stretch of Broadway from the RiteAid to the FedEx.
Coupled with the Farmers Market on Sunday, PrideFest transformed what is usually a traffic-choked sewer-street into a pleasant stroll, filled with food trucks and vendors and lively stages. Based just on my strolling around for a few hours, I'd guess that it brought in a couple thousand revelers. The whole thing was blissful, and it should happen again. Just… maybe not on that weekend.
Broadway is perfectly situated for street festivals. The shop-strewn street connects to a light rail line, a street car line, a bike lane, and it's 15 seconds to Cal Anderson Park. Car usage is arguably minimal — north of Denny, the wide pavement is generally under-utilized by motor vehicles, but there are plenty of pedestrians crowded onto the sidewalks.
Honestly, it’s weird that we don’t have more festivals there throughout the year.
But despite large crowds filling the streets, “it was pretty slow for us due to Labor Day is my guess,” wrote a rep from Loxsmith Bagels. “Should be one day instead of 2 & during the actual pride weekend.”
That’s a good point. Labor Day is often a get-out-of-town time for locals, and it’s also the usual time for PAX (though attendance seemed quite low this year). On any average weekend, Loxsmith usually has a long line waiting for sandwiches by a little wooden sidewalk enclosure, so if they found the weekend slow then maybe Labor Day isn’t the best time to draw neighbors out into the street.
Then again: “Pride festival isn’t about business for me,” wrote Lisa Chang, owner of Trendy Wendy. “It’s important, no matter how much the area gentrifies, Pride remains on Broadway and it’s a safe haven.” This year’s street fair, she wrote, “was exactly as it always was, time to see old friends, families, cute kids, cute dogs.”
That community vibe was heightened by some clever usage of the plaza by Barbara Bailey Way. It was, at various times throughout the weekend, the stage for a drag show, an amphitheater for a movie screening, and a Farmers Market. The site is brand new as of this year, so we’re still figuring out the various ways that it can serve the community, but PrideFest weekend’s uses were all a delight.
That having been said, it wasn't a perfect experience for everyone. "Less often is my preference for street fairs on Broadway," Loxsmith's rep wrote. "There’s already a lot going on."
On the other hand, Chang found ways to make the weekend work: "I ended up buying out inventory from one of the street vendors Sunday night," she wrote, and after a day of heavy sales she closed early and took Monday off. "Don’t chase the party and leave when you’re tired," she added.
It's been a year and a half of constantly-evolving new normals — not just because of the pandemic, but also with a slew of changes to the city's streets, its transportation network, and its level of population. Like it or not, with new housing, new transit, and new pedestrian magnets, the Broadway corridor is in the process of transforming into a perfect destination for festivals: Street food festivals, music festivals, art festivals, Prides, Halloweens, art walks, and more.
PrideFest was a little glimpse at the future of Capitol Hill. Let’s keep it going.