Enumclaw July 4 parade will feature a first this year: A pride section

Members of the Plateau’s LGBTQ+ community will be part of Independence Day festivities

Enumclaw’s 4th of July parade is back this weekend, and it’ll feature a new section: Plateau Pride, a newly-formed LGBTQ+ group, will be walking.

As far as organizers know, it’ll be the first gay pride demonstration in the parade’s history.

For a patriotic celebration of constitutional rights and freedoms, “it feels appropriate” to celebrate her rights under the law too, said Plateau Pride organizer Jenny Jones.

The message is that “you’re not the only one in town,” Jones and her wife Raelin Crncevich said.

“I’m truly proud to be who we are – to be lesbian, married with my wife – but more so than the pride aspect, it is the accessibility, and the tolerance,” Jones said. “It’s more about letting people know we’re here for them.”

The parade’s theme this year is UNITY, and “we are motivated now more than ever to be an inclusive community for all,” said Kerry Solmonsen, events and public relations director at the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the parade.

“We at the Chamber … are so excited to see this as a part of our parade this year,” she said.

Around 45 floats are entered in the parade, and you can still sign up as late as Friday. Organizers had to cancel last year’s parade due to COVID-19, “which was quite devastating to the community,” Solmonsen said.

The day this year kicks off at 8 a.m. with a pancake breakfast on Cole Street, held by the Enumclaw Pro Rodeo. It lasts until 10 a.m., at which point check-in and staging for the parade begins. The Enumclaw Hornets football team will help with staging this year, Solmonsen said. The parade begins at noon at the intersection of Cole Street and Washington. It will run the length of Cole and conclude at Monroe Avenue, and likely last about an hour.

Solmonsen said organizers hope to bring back an old tradition from years past for the parade: Kicking it off with a a fleet of kids riding decorated bicycles at the front. Any children interested should visit the Chamber of Commerce in the morning.

For Crncevich and Jones, marching and celebrating at the parade will be one of the first big tests for Plateau Pride.

“The parade is sort of a jumping-off point to see how it’s tolerated,” Crncevich said.

Jones and Crncevich both moved to Enumclaw several years ago for previous relationships, and coincidentally ended up as neighbors in 2016.

Jones, a firefighter for Puget Sound Regional Fire, decided to run for Enumclaw Fire Commissioner in 2017 and asked Crncevich to help run her campaign.

“So we went around town and handed out chapsticks like Oprah,” Crncevich laughed.

Jones won the seat, and the two began dating. They married in August last year, and in lieu of a big ceremony, they flew in a hot air balloon over Sunrise with their three kids.

“It was like peas and carrots with us,” Jones said. “Everything hit. … It’s like any other falling-in-love story, really.”

But the pandemic dragged on, leaving people they knew feeling isolated. As a first responder, Jones saw firsthand some of the worst tolls that depression and illness could wrack.

So around the fall, the two started talking about launching a group for the few others they knew in the local gay community. In early June, they started Plateau Pride, an LGBTQ+ community group, with about a dozen members on Facebook. Within days, it surged to about 200 members.

Around that time a member of the community floated the idea of walking in the Fourth of July parade to Crncevich. She brought it to the Chamber of Commerce, who signed on fully.

Plateau Pride is raising all the funds it needs through donations. Eventually, Crncevich said they aim to turn it into a non-profit that can provide resources and supportive spaces for LGBTQ+ kids, adults and their families and friends.

Jones and Crncevich had to figure it out on their own as a gay couple on the Plateau, but they said they want others to have a better head-start. One parent told Crncevich that had the group been around years ago, her daughter may not have turned to self-harm.

Crncevich grew up in small towns across Montana and Washington, where there was no way to safely be openly gay.

“You do the things you’re supposed to do (to fit in),” she said. “And then you find somebody. You can’t explain it, and it makes zero sense at all, but you know it’s what you want. And then you tell your family, and now you don’t have a family anymore. … That’s hard, and that was a huge part of me wanting to do this. I don’t want people to think they’re alone their whole life, like I did.”

Public attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community have shifted in recent years. The couple’s girls haven’t lost any friends over having two moms. They said they’re “amazed” by the number of businesses that support their mission, and said they believe the silent majority of the Plateau supports them.

“We went from – we didn’t think anybody supported us around here, to years later, just feeling very accepted in the community,” Jones said. “There’s still the pockets of (intolerance). But overwhelmingly, we feel love when we go into most places.”

But they still experience outward acts of hate. Only last week, a gay couple who are members of Plateau Pride witnessed someone rush onto their property, rip a pride flag from their house, and run it over with their truck.

“Somebody acting like that shows me just how much this is needed here,” Jones said. “To show that we are here, and we’re not accepting your s**t anymore.”

So they’re prepared for both “woos and boos.” That’s because for every naysayer, there might be another person in the crowd feeling validated for the first time, they said.

“You never know what’s going to happen with the people you love,” Crncevich said. “So today you could be against it, but in 25 years you may not have a choice if you want to love your family member.”