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Pride on the Beach: An interview with Alki Beach Pride founder Stacy Bass-Walden

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A performer entertains the crowds at Alki Beach Pride — Photo by Cameron Martinez
A performer entertains the crowds at Alki Beach Pride — Photo by Cameron Martinez

Colorful tents and food trucks crowded a closed-off portion of Alki Avenue in celebration of the ninth annual Alki Beach Pride event. While a smoky haze obscured the usual views of Bainbridge, Magnolia, and Queen Anne, people still danced and partied on the sandy shores.

ABP co-founder Stacy Bass-Walden (she/they) spoke to the SGN between hugging attendees, dancing, answering phone calls from volunteers, and spending time with her wife and co-founder Jolie.

"Alki Beach Pride," said Bass-Walden with an emphasis on the word "beach." "You got to put the 'beach' in there, because this is the only beach pride in the entire state... Some people say 'Alki Pride,' but it's the only beach, baby!"

Stacy Bass-Walden with musician Lakin — Photo by Cameron Martinez  

Bass-Walden has a special connection to Alki because she has resided in the neighborhood for about 25 years and even married her wife on the beach nearly seven years ago. She is so well-known in the area that businesses call her "the mayor."

While the Pride event has garnered larger crowds throughout the years, it started out as a small get-together in the women's apartment during Pride.

"[We started] bringing it out to the beach and enjoying what the parks have to offer: something a little different, something with fewer crowds, and to support the local businesses over here," Bass-Walden said. "So, it's a little combination of everything."

It is usually a two-day celebration with roller skating, a car parade, and other outdoor activities, but due to other organizations reserving the beach, ABP was only able to use it for a single day this year.

"[In] December, we start the process [of organizing Pride] by reaching out to the Parks Department and trying to secure a date," Bass-Walden said. "I would say that's the hardest thing, because this beach is very busy and popular. So, between weddings and salsa dancing... there are some [people] who snag all the dates throughout the whole year. Maybe [the Parks Department] can work on that system a little bit better so that we don't have to be limited on when we have hours."

Snapshots of the festivities along Alki Beach — Photos by Cameron Martinez  

"Make it beautiful"
Despite a change to the usual plans, Bass-Walden and other attendees still made the best of the event. Besides vendors and food trucks, there was also a plethora of entertainment, such as drag shows, live music, live comedy, a twerking contest, and many opportunities for arts and crafts. There was also an emphasis on showcasing people of color.

"[The event is] important, because the newer, younger generation needs to be able to see the faces of who else can run Pride events," Bass-Walden said. "Two Black women decided to throw a beautiful, intimate party at their apartment and now, nine years later, what we listen to is what the folks wanted us to do. They said, 'Don't give it up, keep it going, and make it beautiful.'"

Bass-Walden hopes that with the tenth anniversary on the horizon, ABP will become Washington state's destination beach pride event.

"I don't know if we're at that point yet, but I would love to that hear one of the airlines is sponsoring, because it's a destination pride in West Seattle," Bass-Walden said. "I want that kind of buzz to happen, because this West Seattle area has a family vibe anyway."

Even if ABP doesn't get the airline sponsorship Bass-Walden hopes for next year, there is still going to be a positive impact on the neighborhood and its visitors.

"I want folks to remember that pride is 365 days a year," Bass-Walden said. "And I want them to remember to come back to Alki Beach in the fall and the winter. We have beautiful restaurants... I want them to remember it's not just in June. The beach is for everyone, and we can do the damn thing every year."