Out, Proud and Smiling
Pride turns 17 under sunny skies
By Katie Dettman
It’s true one doesn’t need to go all the way to Portland to celebrate the gay: Thousands of LGBT folks and allies reveled in their rainbow-colored best at Alton Baker Park on Saturday, Aug. 9, during the Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival.
This year’s theme was “Live, Love, Be.” The weather was ideal for the event — sunny and clear with a cool breeze. The celebration experienced a bit of growth over last year’s fête, with 56 vendors and more than 3,200 participants. Last year there were 40 vendors and about 3,000 attendees.
|Members of the Thunder Chickens prepare for the five-legged race. Photo: Suzi Steffen|
Julie Weismann of QueerEugene.com started what she hopes is a new tradition: Pride games, with teams doing everything from a five-legged race to finding new and creative ways to pass beach balls and water bottles from person to person. Local entertainers as well as acts from the San Francisco area performed in a newly designed stage area.
“We tried out a new stage that everyone liked a lot — we put the tables closer to the grass so that people could dance on the grass instead of on the dirt,” said Jer Megowan, Pride Festival Coordinator. He added that festival-goers appreciated the new dance area and a wider variety of food vendors.
“I think it’s great that [Eugene] has Pride so that everyone in the community and outside areas can pull together and then do this versus having to travel all the way to Portland,” said Robert Lemaster, who actually came down from Portland for the event.
Entertainers included Joshua Klipp of San Francisco; Nicole Sangsuree, long a standout at the UO and now living in Portland; Mr. JoyBoy; and Spin Cycle Squares of Eugene. Klipp’s back-up dancers were a perfect complement to his sunglasses- and baseball cap-clad cuteness. Spin Cycle Squares got the audience up and dancing.
“It’s nice — it’s not overly political,” said Lemaster’s friend Tim Thatstowl, who has lived in Eugene for almost 20 years. This year was his first visit to the Pride Festival. “There are booths set up that have different information on what these organizations are doing, and there’s some stuff going on that I wasn’t aware of, and I’ve lived here 20 years. I’m glad I came,” he said.
Kelly Windhaven, a massage therapist and energy healer in Eugene who comes to the Pride celebration every year, wore a kilt, made by her partner, and a 2008 Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival T-shirt. “This year is better — there are more people, more booths, more vendors, more people, I’m hugging and kissing my sweetie, so I’m having a great time!”
Mary Robertson, Windhaven’s partner, helped at the Religious Response Network (RRN) booth. “RRN is a group of about a dozen congregations in town that try to give a voice of reason when there’s a hate crime, a piece of legislation, anything like that,” she said. Robertson is also a member of Soromundi, Eugene’s women’s choir, which is celebrating its 20th year. (Want to join? Check out www.soromundi.org and attend rehearsals in early September.)
Club Pynk’s Pride White Party took place later at John Henry’s. Hundreds of revelers, many wearing mostly white, danced the night away and enjoyed performances by Mills, the Club Pynk Go-Go Dancers and others. One poor lad lamented the predominantly female crowd: “There are so many lesbians here! But where are all the gay men?”
So why is the Eugene/Springfield celebration so late in the summer? According to Megowan, the traditional late June Pride weekend observed by most other celebrations around the world too often risks rainy weather here. He added that the planning committee doesn’t want to compete with other summer events like Art and the Vineyard and the Oregon Country Fair. Pride has been taking place during the second weekend of August for the past four years.
“We’re always looking for volunteers to help us plan the event,” Megowan said. The committee was short-handed this year, he added, and said that the committee welcomes new members, who can find out more and sign up at www.eugenepride.org (meetings begin in September for next year’s fest).