Carnation Pride Picnic marks milestone for local LGBTQ+ community

Carnation-based SnoValley Pride hosted the celebration last weekend in honor of Pride Month

For years, Snoqualmie Valley residents who belonged to the LGBTQ+ community were often left wondering if there was anyone else like them.

Sitting in a city hall meeting over a year ago, Jessica Merizan recalled asking herself a similar question: “Am I the only queer person here? Do we exist here?”

As it turns out, she isn’t and they do.

Merizan told that story to dozens of attendees during the opening of the inaugural Carnation Pride Picnic on June 11, an unprecedented celebration of the Valley’s LGBTQ+ community held at Tolt Commons Park.

Featuring live music, food, vendors and games, the picnic comes during Pride Month — and is a major milestone for the Valley’s LGBTQ+ community, who until recently had little public visibility or interactions.

“I went from ‘am I the only one here’ to ‘no – we’re here in force,’” Merizan, a Carnation resident and event organizer, told the crowd.

The event is part of a growing LGBTQ+ movement in Carnation and the Valley, spurred on by the formation of SnoValley Pride, a LGBTQ+ nonprofit.

Greg Jamiel, a Carnation resident, founded the group last January. But in a short time, the group has drummed up large-scale support, sponsoring community trivia nights, live music, panel discussions and drag shows.

Jamiel said the group aims to build community, increase the visibility of LGBTQ+ residents and challenge stigmas typical of rural communities. The Snoqualmie Valley has long carried a reputation of being regressive and opposed to LGBTQ+ rights. But if you dig a bit deeper, Jamiel said, there is a community looking to be more inclusive and accepting.

For example, 15 businesses along Tolt Avenue agreed to raise pride flags during the month of June, he said.

“This visibility not only shows Carnation is committed to being inclusive,” he said, “but it shows citizens that live here that we are all welcome.”

During remarks at the picnic, Jamiel encouraged residents to celebrate their history and progress, acknowledging how far they’d come, but cautioning that the fight for equality is far from over.

The rapid progress in Carnation over the last few months comes as a bright spot during a tumultuous period for LGBTQ+ rights. Over the past year, state legislatures across the country have advanced nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ bills, according to an online tracker from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Attacks against LGBTQ+ communities are also on the rise, even in King County, said Sarah Perry, a King County Councilmember, referencing a comment by a Sammamish planning commissioner this month who said LGBTQ+ people were “poisoning our kids.”

“It’s happening all over our district,” she said of the attacks, while emphasizing the importance of protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ residents.

“It’s human rights. That’s all it is. It’s not something big and crazy,” she said. “It’s basic human rights.”

In face of opposition, Jamiel encouraged residents to continue to be bold, and to march forward with “unwavering determination.”

“Our fight for equality is not just for ourselves, it’s for future generations, so that they may live in a world where acceptance and love prevail or prejudice and fear,” he said. “Together we can create a world where love, acceptance and equality reign supreme.”