What is Edmonds doing to reach LGBTQ visitors?

By Makenna Dreher | May 16, 2019
Photo by: Brian Soergel Pride of Edmonds members march in Edmonds’ July 4 parade in 2018.

Ellen Hiatt, the principal consultant for the City of Edmonds, attended the recent “Reaching the LGBTQ Visitor: Marketing, Hospitality and Economic Impact” at the Lynnwood Convention Center.

She repeated a common phrase said throughout the day: “It’s more than the right thing to do; it’s good business.”

But, she added: “We obviously have a long way to go (to reach the LGBTQ visitor).”

The event was sponsored by the Snohomish County Visitors Bureau and the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), the latter the state’s largest LGBTQ and allied chamber of commerce.

Hiatt works with Edmonds Economic Development and Community Services Director Patrick Doherty, the City’s liaison on the Edmonds Diversity Commission.

Doherty has been the director since 2014, and his roles include retaining and expanding the existing business base in Edmonds, attracting new business and promoting tourism, investments, and redevelopment.

Starting this year, he is also co-leading efforts for Edmonds as Washington’s first Creative District to support the creative sector and help make it a thriving part of the local economy.

“We are trying to be broad in thinking about including LGBTQ themes in our outreach, and we’ll have discussions about what we’re doing now – finding anything that alienates – and what we can do to add a welcoming sense in our outreach,” he said.

The Diversity Commission has led the charge, with multiple events and discussions surrounding LGBTQ and other marginalized issues.

“Last year, and possibly this year, there was a grant request that was awarded to a local pride group – the first-ever Edmonds pride picnic at Hickman Park last June,” Doherty said. “It was the first time ever that Edmonds had an event like that.”

Pride of Edmonds formed for the 2017 Fourth of July parade, independent of anything the Diversity Commission was doing, said Pride co-founder Brian Potter, who is also a member of the commission.

“The Chamber of Commerce was very encouraging of our joining, and we've had nothing but positive feedback from that,” Potter said. “Last year, Pride of Edmonds solicited sponsorship from a number of local businesses to help defray the cost of getting T-shirts. Those businesses' logos are on the back of our shirts now.

“As the co-lead of Pride of Edmonds, I've been approached a couple of times by groups like GSBA, but Pride of Edmonds is purely a social group; we're just here to support LGBTQ individuals.”

Over the years, the Diversity Commission has also had a presence at the Edmonds Fourth of July parade.

One year, the commission had a large crowd walk in the parade together, including “pride folks, a Mexican American group, and a Muslim group,” Doherty said. “We were their platform, and now they became their own contingent, which is great.”

The commission has recently discussed efforts to expand the diversity of thought concerning politics and how to engage with one another in constructive and meaningful ways on opposite sides of the political and ideological spectrum, Doherty said.

To engage with the younger generation, the commission hosts the annual youth forum at Edmonds-Woodway High School, an opportunity for high school students to come together to discuss topics related to contemporary life issues and diversity.

Students sit at tables and move around talking about issues affecting them with peers, he said.

There is always an LGBTQ table at the event, which is important for the teen demographic to discuss, Doherty said.

“Teens who are LGBTQ suffer most with angst from those years and having a conversation about it is very important.”

The Diversity Commission is also working on a new storytelling project, which was approved at a recent meeting. It will be open to community members who wish to tell their personal stories in any media form. The official announcement will be in June, Doherty said.

“We want people to tell their story – personal struggles, accomplishments, joys – what it’s like to be an Edmonds person.”

The project will be open to the public from the middle of June to the middle of August, with hopes of doing a live capstone event of the stories in the fall. People can submit stories to a future Facebook page or by physically handing in their story.

“We want anybody and everybody who wants to submit their story,” Doherty said. “We want a diversity of people to participate.”

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