This colorful community picnic put pride proudly on display with rainbow flags, balloons, painting, dancing, music and hours of chit-chat.
The festivities on the sunny Saturday afternoon of June 29 were inspired in the face of disappointment over the postponement, or possible cancelation, of the Whidbey’s Queer Pride Parade, an annual festival that attracted lively crowds to downtown Langley.
The lack of a parade left a void on South Whidbey during pride month, so some residents decided to fill it with the impromptu “Langley Pride Picnic.”
It took three weeks to pull together, but perhaps a new tradition has been born.
“It was perfect,” Shelly Rempa, from the HUB, said of the event, which ended up lasting seven hours at the Deer Lagoon Grange in Langley.
Organizers estimate between 120 and 150 people attended throughout the evening, including about 35 youth.
“The kids were really upset that there weren’t any pride events going on on the south end of the island,” Rempa said. Organizers considered going to Seattle’s pride festivities, but the youth were unhappy with that idea because they wanted community.
Organizer Tori Johnson came up with the idea for the picnic after hearing that the Langley parade was being put off this year and wanted to get a new event rolling.
Parade organizers have reported difficulties with continuing the annual parade due to leadership changes and health challenges. They announced on social media that the event may be cancelled until next year.
“We didn’t want to let pride month go by without having some kind of pride event for the community here,” Johnson said.
She made some phone calls, cold-calling various organizations and the idea eventually came together.
It took about six main organizers to get the event launched, Johnson said, including people from the HUB, U.S. Bank in Langley, the Whidbey Island Fair, Windermere and herself.
“Everyone contributed something,” Johnson said, adding that a lengthy list of Whidbey organizations coordinated to provide decorations, a photo booth, food, rock-painting supplies, a question-and-answer session and more. The picnic also had music, a pinata, dancing and a community canvas where attendees could make their mark with paint or stamps.
Both Rempa and Johnson say they are determined to make the picnic an annual event, perhaps eventually in coordination with parade organizers. Rempa has written a grant to the Pride Foundation to receive funds for next year’s event.
For some attendees, seeing such a high level of community support was touching, Rempa said.
The picnic inspired one-on-one connections and conversations that may not occur at a busier or briefer event, organizers said.
“At the picnic we were able to sit for hours and talk. We got to make new friends and enjoy people who we knew in a community setting,” Rempa said.
Civility First set up a tent to spark discussions, and groups including Goosefoot and the Goose Grocer contributed funds to the event, Johnson said.
Anita Johnston of Windermere brought the barbecue, burgers and hot dogs to the picnic.
Johnston was pleased to be involved with the event. For her, it was done in mind of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and in the light of recent military transgender bans, she said.
“I declared 2019 to be my year to step up to be a greater advocate and ally. Having a rainbow sticker on my car was absolutely not enough,” she said in an email.
Johnson said her favorite part of the event was seeing everyone happy and having a good time at the picnic.