It’s time to pull out dancing shoes and fly rainbow flags for the sixth annual Southern Oregon Pride parade and festival in Ashland. Festival founder Gina DuQuenne and this year’s grand marshal, Claudia Alick, say they are looking forward to celebrating gay pride and the Southern Oregon community.
“This is definitely a community event, and each year the event gets bigger and people get more accepting,” DuQuenne says. “We’re all human, we’re all one race, and it is beautiful when we can come together and celebrate both our individuality and our togetherness,” she adds.
The action starts with the parade at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, at Union Street and Siskiyou Boulevard. It will follow North Main Street to Lithia Park, where there will be speeches and performances at the Butler Band Shell. The taco truck that frequents OSF will be there, and La Clinica, Basic Rights Oregon, Lotus Rising Project and several church organizations will also be at the festivities.
“We had such a great response from people who wanted booths,” DuQuenne says. “Each year, more and more people want to be involved.”
Alick, associate producer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, says this will be her first attendance at the parade, though over the years she, with the support of OSF, she has helped produce the festival.
“I was so honored when Gina asked me to be the grand marshal. Not only do I get to be in the parade for the first time, I get to make a speech, I get to dance and I get to wear a fantastic dress designed by Southern Oregon drag queen Diva Disaster,” Alick says. “This dress is amazing. It’s like a gigantic rainbow attacked me. I love it so much.”
The event will include a lot of dancing. From noon to 2:30 p.m., The Rogue Suspects will perform at the band shell, as well as members of Dancing People Company. In the evening, music and dancing will continue at Granite Taphouse, Taroko and Black Sheep Pub in downtown Ashland.
While Alick says she isn’t sure what she will say in her speech, she wants it to be inclusive.
“Our goal is to celebrate both the LBGTQ community and the greater Southern Oregon community, to say we love everyone and we are all in this together.”
The festival’s honorary grand marshal is Matthew Reynolds, performer and director of drama and dance at Crater Renaissance Academy of Arts and Sciences in Central Point. Reynolds and Ashland Mayor John Stromberg will speak to the crowd.
“I love the speeches, all the smart and heartfelt words our leaders have to share with us,” Alick says. “Matthew Reynolds is going to be incredible, and the mayor always impresses me.”
DuQuenne started SOPride six years ago in an effort to make a space for people in the LGBTQ community to know they weren’t alone.
“I wanted people, especially younger people, to celebrate who they are and to see they don’t have to hide,” DuQuenne says. “I’m so happy that there is growing acceptance and marriage equality, but we still have work to do.”
This year, Southern Oregon University students have taken a major role in producing the event. “SOU has been very instrumental and hands-on putting together this event,” DuQuenne says. “The faculty and the students have brought so much energy and new ideas.”
“This is a very youth-driven event, and we are so happy to see these students taking charge and coming together for this,” Alick says. “I’m excited to see what they do.”
Every year, SOPride holds a fundraiser for the festival. At the end of the event they donate a large amount of the proceeds to a nonprofit. This year, SOPride has created a scholarship to be awarded to an SOU student.
“I have such a good feeling about partnering with the university, the hard work everyone is doing, and the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality. I am so filled with gratitude,” DuQuenne says.
Angela Decker is a freelance writer in Ashland and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org