Meet Kevin Toovey, who produces the Seattle Pride Parade, a four-hour, spectacular spectacle that will be held at 11 a.m. June 30, along Fourth Avenue in downtown Seattle.
What do you do? I often tell people I have a day job and a “gay job.” During the day, I work in financial services, supporting a local retailer in the finance area. I work on things like training, reporting, coaching and development. My region encompasses the Pacific Northwest, so I’m usually on an airplane or driving down to Portland (outside of Pride Month).
For my “gay job,” I’m the president of Seattle Pride. I work with the board of directors to plan and execute every aspect of our events, including our highest profile event — the Seattle Pride Parade, which attracts hundreds of thousands of paradegoers. The parade, now in its 45th year, will feature 200 participating groups — including more than 60,000 individuals marching in support of LGBTQ+ pride — making it Seattle’s largest parade, and the country’s fourth largest LGBTQ+ pride parade.
How and why did you get involved with the Seattle Pride Parade? I got involved with Seattle Pride years ago when meeting a former board member at a local PFLAG support meeting on Capitol Hill. Feeling a bit out of place in the LGBTQ+ community, I wanted to be more involved and support it somehow, so I began to volunteer at Seattle Pride events.
I remember showing up to my first planning meeting about a month before the parade and someone handing me a piece of paper with a long list of volunteer positions that needed to be done, so you could say my first job was the volunteer coordinator. Finding and placing volunteers was much tougher than I thought, since everyone talked about wanting to volunteer — but then quickly rethought their decision since it was on Pride weekend! On parade day itself, I ran around the parade route learning a little of everything while addressing the myriad small issues that were popping up. In the process, I met some amazing people in the community and made new friends. Eventually, there was an opening on the board of directors, and I jumped right on it! Since then, I’ve supported various roles within the organization, and eventually worked my way up to president.
What does it take as producer to pull off the parade? There are so many moving parts involved with the Seattle Pride Parade. There are the basics of running any event such as creating and monitoring the budget, and finding sponsors to help fund the parade. Then there are the more unique pieces like finding and selecting grand marshals, as well as our fabulous stage announcers each year. Even things like picking a theme for the parade is process, since you’re trying to find something that represents the entire spectrum of the LGBTQIA+ community.
There are countless meetings, conference calls and emails (a lot of emails), that I participate in. It takes a lot of coordination between our volunteers, participants, city officials, vendors, talent and more, that needs to happen year-round. I basically act as the central person who connects each group to the right resource to get them what they need to make the event happen, while also making sure everything gets done to make the event a success.
What surprises people about planning the parade? It always makes me laugh when people think we organize the parade in a couple of months. Planning the Seattle Pride Parade, and our other events, is a year-round process. We typically jump right back into planning in August for the next year. People are also surprised to hear that we’re an all-volunteer organization. In addition to myself and the board of directors, we have more than 100 volunteers who come together annually to plan and produce the parade.
Any tips on juggling work, life and volunteering? It’s not easy, but you have prioritize what’s important to you. I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the past few years about managing my time, self-care and the consequences of overextending. Leading Seattle Pride is a full-time job itself, on top of my actual day job. So naturally, I’ve had to make some sacrifices to be able to do what I do.
What I’ve learned is that I’m no good to anyone if I don’t make time to take care of myself, whether that’s meeting up with friends for game night, or taking a hike with my black lab, Anakin. It’s OK to pause and take a breather to enjoy life.
What’s the best part of producing the parade? Seeing the faces of people in the crowd. Planning this event is stressful — I’ve even had a good cry after a tough day of Pride meetings in addition to a full day at work. But seeing the energy and excitement of the crowd makes it all worth it. I’ve even cried after the event — partially because I was happy that we pulled off another successful year, but also because there are so many people from different walks of life who are smiling ear to ear. The parade gives them a place to be free and express themselves without fear, and that alone makes it worth it.