For the past six months, Calla Hummel pitched it with passion: a three-day arts festival, with do-it-yourself workshops, spoken-word performances...

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For the past six months, Calla Hummel pitched it with passion: a three-day arts festival, with do-it-yourself workshops, spoken-word performances, and live music to start the whole thing off.

It was an inspiring idea to some, but there were others who looked at Hummel, a 16-year-old girl, and doubted she could get it done.

“There was a large group who said: You’re putting on a what?” said Hummel, who just completed her sophomore year at Garfield High School.

The third annual Bend-It Extravaganza begins tonight in a city parking lot, a grass-roots festival run by and for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. Last year, the festival drew more than 250 young people into a celebration of art and activism.

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This year, Bend-It has joined the big leagues: It is now officially a part of Seattle Pride, the Northwest’s largest celebration of the LGBT community. A corner of Volunteer Park has been set aside as the “Queer Young People’s Space,” with workshops all weekend on a range of topics, from body image to racism to gay-straight alliances in schools.

As this year’s Bend-It director, Hummel pushed hard to bring the festival into the fold of Seattle Pride.

“Here we have this open, big, coming-together of the community,” said Hummel. “I think it’s important for us to set up our place in that, and make ourselves heard.”

The Bend-It Extravaganza


The Bend-It Extravaganza mixes art and activism in a three-day festival.

Today

Opening show at 7 p.m. headlined by The Gossip at The Lifelong Aids Alliance, 1002 E. Seneca S. Also featuring Piper McKenzie, the Von Foxies, Awesome Possum, the East End.

Tomorrow

Workshops in Volunteer Park (Queer Young People’s Space): noon-1:30 p.m., Healthy Relationships, Transfeminism; 2-3 p.m., Safe Sex, Undoing Racism; 4-5:30 p.m., Drag 101, Martial Arts, Trans/Genderqueer and People of Color caucuses.

Fashion Show at 7 p.m. at Theater Schmeater (1500 Summit), featuring McKayla, Rachel, Stella St. Claire, Robert.

Sunday

Workshops in Volunteer Park: noon-1:30, Tobacco Prevention, GSA Forum; 2-3:30 p.m., Body Image, Ageism for Adults; 4-5:30 p.m., Silk Screening (bring your own shirts and fabric), Trans/Genderqueer caucus and People of Color Caucus. All day: Do-It-Yourself zines.

Spoken Word event at Hugo House (1634 11th Ave.) at 7 p.m. featuring Tara Hardy, Katinka Kraft, Amy Mahoney.

In years past, the only space Seattle Pride set aside for youth was an area with a wading pool and a playground.

Frank Leonzal, president of the Seattle Pride Committee, acknowledged that the festival has not evolved as quickly as the community it serves. Young people are coming out earlier than ever, he said, eager to be part of the larger community — and traditionally, Seattle Pride has not done much to welcome them.

“They’re intelligent people with something to offer, and we need to start paying attention to them,” said Leonzal, 40. “If you don’t bring the youth in, at some point, [Seattle Pride] is going to start dying.”

As the founder of Bend-It, Elliat Graney-Saucke never imagined her festival would end up at Seattle Pride, along with so many corporate sponsors. She came up with the idea three years ago, while working with the Seattle Young People’s Project.

She put Bend-It together in the space of two months, with four organizers, on a budget of about $3,000. She centered it on art, simply because it is what she knows and loves best — as a writer, musician, filmmaker.

It is also the thing that helped Graney-Saucke, 21, through that first year of coming out to her family. Back then, she could not stop writing. She put together five zines, or alternative newsletters, in the space of several months.

“It’s been something that’s helped me keep myself together,” she said, reflecting on her art. “It’s really saved me.”

While a community has grown up among LGBT youth in recent years, many still struggle with a sense of isolation at home or in school. Anywhere from 20-40 percent of homeless youth are lesbian, gay or bisexual, according to a 2001 study by the National Network of Youth and Runaway Services. And LGBT youth are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers, according to a U.S. government task force in 1999.

It is not so much that Cory Hoffman feels uncomfortable at Interlake High School in Bellevue, where he is a student. But going to Bend-It last summer, he got the warmest kind of welcome, as if he were finally home.

“It was mind-blowing,” said Hoffman, who was busy painting signs the other day for Bend-It. “Just that feeling of belonging, no matter what.”

Earlier this year, Graney-Saucke handed the festival over to Hummel, convinced that it would do better with a younger leader. And along with a dozen youth organizers, and four advisers, Hummel has managed to pull the whole festival together, between school finals, orthodontist appointments and applying for the University of Washington Academy for Young Scholars.

Earlier this week, in the rush of putting the festival together, she, Graney-Saucke and others stopped to fit three candles onto a cake and sing “Happy Birthday.” They wanted to celebrate a festival that has survived three years, with the hope of so many more.

Cara Solomon: 206-464-2024 or csolomon@seattletimes.com