Pride shines at Historical Seaport

Star musician, many vendors highlight LGBTQ+ fest in 10th year

Ten iterations of the annual Grays Harbor Pride Festival have taken the event all over the map: downtown Hoquiam, Olympic Stadium, the southside Aberdeen mall, and even into a virtual space when the festival persevered the pandemic by live streaming drag shows and music in 2020 and 2021.

So it was not out of the skill set of festival organizers to quickly shift venues when weather turned wet on Saturday, Sept. 23, the first day of fall.

“I think the only thing that went wrong this year was the weather,” said Steven Puvogel, chair of the pride festival committee and board member of the Out and Proud Coalition, and LGBTQ+ advocacy group that has produced the festival all 10 years.

Luckily, the festival’s most recent host — the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Landing — had the roof to accommodate.

A star musician, who some had waited years to see, was in Aberdeen and ready to perform.

The concert was planned for the concrete landing on the banks of the Chehalis River. But morning rains prompted organizers to lug amps, wires and stage lights into the Seaport Landing Events Center, the warehouse-style building near the Seaport’s office, which already contained a stage.

Mary Lambert’s quartet of electric keys, guitars and drums stayed dry, captivating audience members who packed the room. Moments before the concert they worked to assemble rows of chairs only to leave them later when Lambert’s voice and backing band moved many to dance.

Lambert, who is originally from Everett and now lives in Seattle, is a multi-platinum singer and songwriter who has produced five studio albums. Lambert is perhaps most known for singing the chorus on “Same Love,” an LGBTQ+ rights anthem released on Macklemore’s 2012 album “The Heist” that was later nominated for two Grammy awards.

Along with displaying a strong voice and piano skills, Lambert talked about experiences related to mental health and body image, and told stories from a childhood as an LGBTQ+ youth, often drifting into comedy or melancholy and sometimes flowing into rhythmic spoken-word performances.

Later, a string of drag performers took to the stage and danced through the audience as the crowd shrieked and cheered with each dazzling move.

Ceasar Hart, a festival organizer and prominent drag king in Seattle, took the stage first, and later, while MCing the event, connected Aberdeen’s welcoming words with a message of inclusivity the festival hoped to promote.

“It says it on the way into the Harbor ‘Come as you are,’” Hart said, referencing a sign on Highway 12 that greets drivers entering the town.

“(The festival) is a good chance for people to see that they’re not alone,” Puvogel said. “That there really is a community that likes them as they are, whoever they are, and that they’re supported.”

“It’s definitely a group that’s been underrepresented and marginalized historically,” Puvogel said.

The LGBTQ+ acronym — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer — is an all-embracing term that includes a diverse set of gender identities, sexual orientations and spiritual identities. At Saturday’s festival, a wide-range of flag colors and patterns were displayed, each representing its own identity or orientation. Among them were the yellow, white, purple and black for non-binary (a person whose gender is not exclusively male or female); the pink, blue and white for transgender (people whose gender identity is different from the one assigned at birth; and the pink, yellow and blue for pansexual (a sexual orientation that emphasizes preference for any gender).

Those are in addition to the encompassing “rainbow” flag, adopted in 1979 with its traditional six colors, and the “progress” flag, which is the same plus a chevron of black, brown and other colors on the left hand side. The progress flag served as the backdrop for entertainment on Saturday.

For the Out and Proud Grays Harbor Coalition, the goal is “to create a community where everyone can live freely without fear of violence, where our identities, relationships and families are respected, in creating a safe Harbor for all humans to express themselves free of judgment.”

To help work toward that vision, the coalition started the pride festival 10 years ago, when 2,000 people showed up for the event.

Puvogel said pride events in other northwest cities have become more abundant since that time, with many taking place in June, which is Pride Month, or July. Puvogel guessed that most counties in the area have some kind of pride celebration each year, and mentioned Pacific County’s three-day extravaganza this year.

But having a pride festival close to home is crucial for some members of the community. Karma Law, a 16-year-old who identifies as non-binary, attended Saturday’s festival and Friday’s Pride Prom. Law lives nearby in South Aberdeen and doesn’t have the means to travel long distances for other festivals.

Law advocated for more pride events locally.

“It brings people together,” Law said. “It makes them happy, it makes them mingle and meet more people.”

“I really like the community it gives, it just makes it feel safe,” said 15-year-old Ace Totten, a Hoquiam resident.

The festival also connects people with resources through a range of vendors: health organizations, LGBTQ+ Realtors and local churches, among others. One vendor was Harbor Include, a group that’s worked during the last several years to provide a safe, sober space for local teens since 2018. The 501 C-3 nonprofit rents the Events on Emerson space in Hoquiam every Friday night for three hours and opens it to anyone ages 13-19, providing food, entertainment and referrals to resources.

Teens who participate can then go on to become a mentor for the group until the age of 21. Three people have taken that route since the group began, but Penny Gautreaux, board member, treasurer and co-founder with Harbor Include, hopes that number will grow.

“By the time they’re 21, they know how to run something like this, so they become the next generation of leaders here or go off and use their skills somewhere else,” Gautreaux said.

About 60 vendors signed up for the festival this year, nearly twice as many as last year, although Puvogel guessed the inclement weather forced some to bail. About 500 people attended, three-quarters of which were from Grays Harbor County, according to Puvogel.

Grants from the city of Aberdeen and the Grays Harbor County tourism department, along with dozens of community donors helped the festival grow this year.

“With enough sponsorships we can make it work, kind of go for it a little bit,” Puvogel said.

Contact reporter Clayton Franke at 406-552-3917 or

A drag performer dances during a drag show on Sept. 23 at the 2023 Grays Harbor Pride Festival at the Historical Seaport in Aberdeen. (Clayton Franke / The Daily World)