Esprit Gala begins on Sunday

Public events planned next weekend

PORT ANGELES — Participants in the Esprit Gala will begin rolling into town on Sunday for a week of expressing themselves, having fun and raising funds for hospice care.

Esprit has been coming to Port Angeles since 1989, providing a safe space for transgender and cross-dressing individuals while also raising funds for Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County (VHOCC).

“It all started because several of us are part of crossdresser clubs,” said Suzanne Adams, Esprit chair and long-time member.

The three main clubs are from Vancouver B.C., Portland, Ore., and Seattle, but over the years, the event has expanded to individuals from around the world.

“We all got together and decided we wanted to have a convention and we looked all over the state, with Washington being central to the three clubs and we chose Port Angeles kind of because of the challenge of a remote community,” Adams said.

Adams said that since the Esprit Gala has been coming to Port Angeles over the past 32 years, the organization believes it has shown people that the trans and crossdressing community are just ordinary people who express themselves as women.

“Over the years we have embraced the local citizens and they have embraced us,” Adams said.

“In all these years we have never had any run-ins, or arrests or any disturbances and I think that’s a pretty good thing for a convention that happened over 30 years.”

At many of the earlier galas, events were private, for members of the clubs only, but as people got to know each other and the public, the group began holding public events.

Those became an educational opportunity, Adams said.

Now the Esprit Gala is a combination of private and public activities, and members go out on the town and engage with the public.

“We’ve really enjoyed sharing humor with the public, sharing our hearts, and have made lifelong friends with the community,” Adams said.

This year Esprit will offer two events as fundraisers for the VHOCC.

The first event is the annual talent show at 6 p.m. Friday at the Naval Elks Lodge, 131 E. First St., followed by a dance party at 8 p.m. at the Red Lion Hotel’s ballroom, Lincoln and Railroad, on May 14.

Each event has a $5 cover donation, with all the proceeds going to the VHOCC to use to provide end-of-life nursing care, medical supplies, grief support, and bereavement services without charge to customers.

Adams said hospice has been the charity of choice since the beginning of Esprit events, and to date, the event has donated over $55,000 to VHOCC.

“ We all sat around and argued about what we would like to do,” Adams said.

”We knew we wanted to give back to the community, so we decided to give to a charity, and then we all argued about our favorite charities.

“Then when someone said hospice, we all got really silent, because there wasn’t one of us who hadn’t known someone that had been in hospice care.

“We decided on hospice because it touches everyone. You can’t talk to anyone who hasn’t had hospice help some part of their family.”

_________

Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].

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