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Washington Gay Pride begins in Centralia
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Washington Gay Pride begins in Centralia

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

If you drive 95 miles south of Seattle for roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes, you'll find yourself in Centralia, Washington - a location that does not pop into one's mind when thinking about Gay Pride. Still, for the third year in a row, in the face of threats and intimidation, the Centralia College Gay and Straight Student Alliance Network (GSA) held the Lewis County Pride Celebration Friday, June 5, at the college clock tower from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

What began as an SGN road trip turned into an afternoon of true grassroots LGBT Pride. The celebration, with barely 100 people in attendance, brimmed with so much Gay Pride you would have thought 10,000 people were there.

The Pride celebration was easy for us to find, as rainbow colored balloons and flags lined booths surrounding a stage set up near the clock tower. A DJ played dance music and people munched on pasta and bread. The Pride celebration had a backyard barbeque feel to it.

The day's events included an opening ceremony, guest speakers, a book reading about Gay Seattle, several song and dance performances, including belly dancers, the crowning of Mr. and Miss Gay Lewis County, and a closing ceremony. Zac Letts, a 20-year-old from Seattle, drove to Centralia to support his best friend, 21-year-old Aaron Evans, who was scheduled to sing and perform a pop music routine. The two Gay men have been friend since they were 10 years old, and came out to each other years ago.

"I think Pride celebrations like this one are good because a lot of people under 21 years old don't have the opportunity to do a lot within the Gay community," said Letts. "When you are young you can't go in the bars and there isn't much to do to really feel like a part of the community."

Evans agreed with his friends and added, "I'm just glad everyone is having a good time today. I mean, it's 2009, right? Everyone knows at least one Gay person. It's good to see everyone being more open."

Evans said he was surprised by the number of people who showed up to support the LGBT community in Lewis County. "I was expecting, like, one person because there was so much controversy last year."

In 2008, about 100 people attended the celebration. After the crowning of Mr. and Miss Gay Lewis County 2008, protestors showed up. Following the day's celebration, hate mail and threats were sent to the Centralia College GSA. Showing courage and true pride, the GSA remained unfazed by the threats and began work on the 2009 celebration, which went off without a hitch.

"This celebration is more about a Gay and straight alliance than anything," said Mary Carver, a straight ally to the LGBT community in Lewis County. "The students who are a part of the GSA have set out to honor their alliance and I think this celebration embodies that. Look around, everyone is having such a good time."

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