BELLINGHAM - The 13th annual Bellingham Pride Festival kicks off this year with a flag-raising ceremony in front of City Hall.
The brief public event begins 4 p.m. Thursday, July 11, with the raising of two rainbow flags - the symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride and their social movements.
It is the first time that the rainbow flags have been raised at City Hall.
Bellingham City Council President Seth Fleetwood and Mayor Kelli Linville will host the event on the plaza, 210 Lottie St. in the downtown.
The city will fly the flags to celebrate the June 26 U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down the provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex spouses, a ruling that city officials said supports gay marriage.
The flags also are being raised to show the community's commitment to equality for all, Fleetwood said in a news release.
The City Council voted unanimously at its July 1 meeting to fly the rainbow flags, which will stay up July 12, 13 and 14 to coincide with the 2013 Bellingham Pride Festival.
The pride flags will be flown in addition to the U.S. flags.
"It's great to know that we have the support of our public leaders and our elected officials," Brian Spencer, one of the organizers of Bellingham Pride Festival, said of the flag raising.
He said the flag raising also is a nice way to commemorate a number of recent victories, including Washington state voters legalizing gay marriage in November and the June 26 U.S. Supreme Court decision to reject California's ban on same-sex marriage.
As for the Bellingham Pride Festival, Spencer said organizers expect an "uptick" in festival-goers because of the legal victories.
Other events for the annual festival are:
FRIDAY, JULY 12
All Ages B-Proud Dance: 8 p.m. to midnight at Love To Move Studioz, 311 E. Holly St. $3 admission.
SATURDAY, JULY 13
-- Pride Family Picnic: Noon at Maritime Heritage Park, C and West Holly streets. Donations will be accepted to cover the cost of food.
-- Hot Flash Dance for women: 6 to 10 p.m. at The Underground, 211 E. Chestnut St. $8 cover.
-- Pride Drag Show: 7 p.m. at Rumors Cabaret, 1119 Railroad Ave., for those 21 years and older. $5 cover.
-- Rumors Pride Celebration: 10 p.m. at Rumors Cabaret. For those 21 years and older. $3 cover.
SUNDAY, JULY 14
-- Pride Parade: Noon. Starts at Ohio Street and Cornwall Avenue. Continues along Cornwall and ends at Depot Market Square, 1100 Railroad Ave.
-- Pride Festival: Noon to 4 p.m. at Depot Market Square. Features vendors, children's activities and appearances by local and state officials. Suggested donation of $2 for admission.
Organizers worked to make the annual festival welcoming to families and to people of all ages.
"We've always gotten great feedback about how family friendly our event is," Spencer said.
More information is online at bhampride.org.
Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or firstname.lastname@example.org.