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Southern Oregon Pride's annual festivities extend to a full week

The local LGBT community has adopted a theme of strength, courage and resilience and expanded its annual Pride festivities in the wake of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida last summer.

On June 12, Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in a terrorist attack and hate crime at the nightclub in Orlando.

The Rogue Valley lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and its supporters rallied after the attack. That spirit will show through in a week of activities beginning Saturday, Oct. 1, and hitting its peak with the annual Pride parade in downtown Ashland at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 8. Activities have expanded to include Medford, Phoenix and Grants Pass.

"We will remain strong and we will remain resilient — as we have been for hundreds and hundreds of years," says Gina DuQuenne, founder and president of Southern Oregon Pride, who helped launch the first Pride parade in Ashland in 2010. "We stand on the shoulders of the ones who came before us and fought so hard. That's how we can hold our heads high and be strong and resilient."

DuQuenne has handed the reins of the annual Pride festival to Southern Oregon Rainbow Coalition, a collaborative networking group.

The coalition has planned an extended week of educational events, entertainment, community dinners and the parade — with events spread throughout the Rogue Valley.

The festivities are vital to help the LGBT community recover from the Orlando incident, says Lori Warfield, interim executive director and co-founder of Lotus Rising Project, which helps support LGBT and questioning youth.

"We need to be able to remember what our community is about and to also celebrate it," she says. "We hope that many people, including our allies, will attend to show support and enjoy the celebration."

Warfield says people from as far away as Roseburg and Northern California travel to attend the annual Pride parade in Ashland.

"We wanted to spread out the activities to honor them and so they don't have to drive so far," she says.

Warfield says the shooting at the Orlando nightclub was a wake-up call to many LGBT youth.

"I heard them say, 'This is happening to my community,'" she says. "It's a time for us to empower ourselves and be visible. For youth, there's still a lot of bullying going on in the schools outside Ashland. It's important to be visible. It's important to bring the fear down and educate people about who we are."

Warfield says marching in the parade is an empowering experience for LGBT youth and others, and they especially appreciate the support of allies coming to watch the parade.

Several religious groups will be marching in the parade to show that their congregations welcome all people. Young people can see they don't need to abandon the spiritual side of themselves, Warfield says.

Following the Orlando attack, DuQuenne says congregations reached out to her.

"People from temples and churches said, 'Gina, come and speak and share your experiences.' There was such a sense of togetherness, community and oneness. We are all the same. If you're not in the LGBTQ community, you know someone who is," DuQuenne says.

A portion of proceeds goes toward a scholarship fund for a Southern Oregon University student.

For a full schedule of events, visit en.lotusrisingproject.org.

Highlights include:

  • Ashland Kick-Off Party: DJzLor will provide entertainment for dancing at 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, at Standing Stone Brewing Co., 101 Oak St, Ashland. Admission is $5.
  • Grants Pass Kick-Off Party: DJ Jes Webb from Sights & Sounds Unlimited will provide music for dancing at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, at The Haul, 121 S.W. H St., Grants Pass. The event is for ages 21 and over. Admission is $2 and a can of food.
  • LGBTQ Ally Training: Free training is at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, in the Stevenson Union Building on the Southern Oregon University campus, Ashland.
  • Community Silent Rave: People will dance to radio transmitted music while wearing wireless headphones at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 7, at the Lithia Park entrance on Winburn Way, Ashland. Admission is by a $5 to $20 donation.
  • Bedpost Confessions: A storytelling event for ages 18 and over is at 9:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, at Hearsay Restaurant, 40 S. First St., Ashland. Admission is $5.
  • Drag Show: Queen and king drag shows for ages 18 and over are at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, at Phoenix Clubhouse, 310 N. Main St., Phoenix. Admission is $10. A portion of the proceeds goes to the HIV Alliance.
  • The annual Pride parade is at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, in downtown Ashland. Vendor booths will be at the Butler Bandshell in Lithia Park from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Family-friendly picnicking, entertainment and playing of musical instruments is from noon to 3 p.m. at the bandshell.
  • Glowing with Pride Dance: The dance includes a DJ, raffle prizes and performers at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, at the Elks Club, 255 E. Main St., Ashland. Admission is $15 or $10 for students.
  • LGBTQ Veterans Coffee: Enjoy coffee and meet Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs Coordinator Nathaniel Boehme at 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 9, in the Stevenson Union Building at SOU.
  • Pride Movie: The movie "Pride" will be shown at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9, at the Varsity Theatre, 166 E. Main St., Ashland. Reserve a free ticket by calling 1-844-418-2281.