Pride Festival presents safe haven in Richland

The second annual Pride Festival closed out Pride Week with a gathering at John Dam Plaza.

For Hailey Howard, Richland’s Pride Festival means not having to worry about being judged.

The city resident, whose electric-blue hair stood out as she walked into John Dam Plaza, was excited about going to the Sunday event.

“I’ve been out and about in the queer community for years,” she said. “Pride means to me, that I can go up to someone and say, ‘I’m queer,’ and they’ll say, ‘Oh, dude. That’s really awesome.’ ”

Howard, like many of the people walking through the Tri-Cities’ second Pride Festival, said the event gives her a chance to be open and honest about who she is without having any fear of rejection.

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The festival was the culmination of Pride Week, and brought businesses, community organizations, politicians and even a superhero to the park Sunday afternoon.

They came carrying signs supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and reinforcing the message that people should not be judged based on their sexual orientation.

While Carly Coburn, Tri-Cities Pride’s communications director, heard from other community members that the event is like a family reunion, this was the first time she was able to attend one.

“Pride has a lot of history with it being a place for you to go when you’re LGBTQ, where even if you’re not accepted at home, you’re accepted at Pride,” she said “Not everyone lives in supportive households. Not everyone has supportive family or friends.”

Carie LaMarsh came from Prosser to participate in the event. While she is straight, she wanted to support the community. A member of the Tri-Cities group Love Not Hate, LaMarsh’s son Colin pulled a wagon during the festival’s march holding wooden letters spelling out “Love.”

LaMarsh said it’s important to her to teach her son to accept other…

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