Picnic attendees created a community art canvas. (Photos provided)

Picnic attendees created a community art canvas. (Photos provided)

Whidbey residents collaborate for Pride picnic

Organizers plan to make Langley Pride Picnic a new tradition, hope to see Pride Parade return

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.

“There was just so much joy,” she said.

At the LGBTQ-supportive Langley Pride Picnic, community members gathered for food, music, art crafts and dancing. Above, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Oak Harbor’s Rev. Diana Peters wears a shirt that says “free Clergy hugs.” (Photos provided)

At the LGBTQ-supportive Langley Pride Picnic, community members gathered for food, music, art crafts and dancing. Above, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Oak Harbor’s Rev. Diana Peters wears a shirt that says “free Clergy hugs.” (Photos provided)

Anita Johnston of Windermere brought burgers and hot dogs to the picnic.

Anita Johnston of Windermere brought burgers and hot dogs to the picnic.

More in Life

Foxtail Farms brings sun to Whidbey

When Stephen Williams first stepped foot on Whidbey Island a few years… Continue reading

Four talented musicians bring chamber music to Langley stage

By WENDY LEIGH wleigh@whidbeynewsgroup.com When The Beatles first landed on American soil… Continue reading

Cloudstone Sculpture Park Gallery to open Aug. 31 and Sept. 1

Cloudstone Sculpture Park & Gallery will be open to the public 10… Continue reading

‘House of music:’ Langley bed and breakfast home to unexpected concerts

By WENDY LEIGH wleigh@whidbeynewsgroup.com Anyone who thinks they can keep up with… Continue reading

A touch of Maine lands at Freeland lobster shack

Artist and entrepreneur John Norris knows a thing or two about Maine… Continue reading

Whidbey-born director returns to debut film

As film screenwriter and director Ben Medina set out to bring his… Continue reading

Spate of events slated for Whidbey Island in next two weeks

From pig consumption to orca capture mourning to flashy cars and friendly… Continue reading

Concerts in the park continue

South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District continues its free Concerts in the… Continue reading

SUVA can set sail with more passengers

The U.S. Coast Guard has determined Coupeville’s resident schooner is in shipshape… Continue reading

Art & About | Whidbey Island’s August art events

The ARTISTS OF SOUTH WHIDBEY are proud to present their 45th annual… Continue reading

Ride the Kraken: ‘Captain’ offers unique tours

If you and a group of people want to get somewhere on… Continue reading

Family to get new Habitat for Humanity home

It was Alli Gann’s childhood goal to move to Whidbey Island. But… Continue reading