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Abdill-Ellis center plans gay pride celebration

As Southern Oregon's gay community grows bigger and stronger, — those in the community felt it was time to celebrate.

So a small group got together and decided to plan a big — event. Out of that conversation comes Gay Pride Festival 2004, a week-long — event celebrating on two fronts.

"The first reason for the celebration was that we saved — the Abdill-Ellis Lamda Center," said Jeffrey Foust, one of the organizers — of the event. "And the second reason was that we felt we needed to celebrate — and felt there was a need for a festival. It has been a long year and — it is really now just getting started with the upcoming election."

Raising the $10,500 to save the center took a great deal — of time and effort. So the celebration will be a way to say thank you — to the community for rallying behind the center.

"Between the open house, the celebration and the annual — meeting at the Medford Library, we will celebrate the center's remaining — open," Danielle Mancuso, another organizer of the event, said. "But we — will also be discussing ways to keep the fundraising going all year and — thus avoid having this happen again. I definitely do not want to have — to go through another emergency fundraising effort."

Gay Pride 2004 is the first of its kind ever to be held — in Southern Oregon. Foust said there is a need for a stronger gay community — presence, especially in this election year.

"It is very important to hold the festival now," Foust — noted. "So many people in the GOP are working very hard to get an anti — gay marriage bill on the floor of the House and Senate that we need to — be active."

And Foust said there is also an economic issue to be considered.

"There was a community here years ago and I feel it had — fallen to the wayside," he said. "Now it is important for us to show we — are a growing community, that we are here and that our money is just as — good as anyone else's."

The other members of the gay community who worked on the — planning of the event include Brandi McDonald and Frances Marsh.

"We had some brainstorming sessions about holding the — festival and felt that since the center is now downtown at the Historic — Ashland Armory, we should get on the downtown bandwagon," Foust noted.

Marsh said the purpose of the festival is to bring the — community together and introduce new members of the gay community in the — Rogue Valley.

"The most important part of the week is the annual meeting,' — she said. "The interesting part will be to see and hear from the membership — and hear what they want. There is a proposal to expand the board from — nine to 13 members that will be taken up at the meeting."

The final event, Pride in the Park, at Lithia Park will — be a big event and celebration.

"You will see a lot of folks from all around the area — at the event," she said. "There are 14 women's groups in the hills and — several have said they are coming for the event. "We will have between — 10-14 different organizations, gay and straight, represented at Pride — in the Park."

Mancuso added that once the ball got rolling, the festival — grew and grew.

"I was very surprised by the response,' she said. "Everyone — has been so positive. We thought it would be a small event but it has — turned into something very big."

One of those events is an Open House and Art Show to coincide — with First Friday from 6 - 9:30 p.m. at the Abdill-Ellis Lambda Center, — 208 Oak Street, Suite 112. Another big event is Movie Night at the center. — The show will feature the first episode of "The L Word" and the first — episode of "Queer as Folk" (4th season). Mancuso said the committee took — a large city film festival idea and turned it into a living room film — festival.

For information, call 488-6990.

Schedule of events

o Friday, June 4 - Open house/art show 6-9:30 p.m. The — Abdill-Ellis Center, 208 Oak Street, Suite 112. Included in First Friday.

o Monday, June 7 - Queer open mic 7 p.m., Evo's Java Shop, — 376 E. Main St. Bring poems and music, or come and listen.

o Tuesday, June 8 - Annual meeting 7-9 p.m., Medford Library, — 205 S. Central Ave., Medford. Discuss ideas for the future of the Abdill-Ellis — center and vote on new board members.

o Wednesday, June 9 - Abajo hosts "Queer Night," 8 p.m., — 66 N. Pioneer Street.

o Thursday, June 10 - Movie night, 6-9:30 p.m., the Abdill-Ellis — Center, 208 Oak Street, suite 112. First episode of "The L Word" and the — first episode of "Queer as Folk," now in its fourth season.

o Friday, June 11 - Queer independent short films, 7-9 — p.m., 258 Garfield Street.

o Saturday, June 12 - Queer golf tournament, 5 p.m., hosted — by the Political Caucus of Southern Oregon, Bear Creek Golf Course, Medford. — Space is limited. Contact Sue at sjones@jri-inc.com

o Saturday, June 12 - Queer grrls' second Saturday party, — 7:30 p.m., 570 Elizabeth Street. No minors.

o Sunday, June 13 - The Big Gay Picnic, noon-5 p.m., Lithia — Park Band Shell. Speakers from 1:30-3 p.m. Bring a picnic lunch and come — celebrate. Join in the Campiest Picnic Theme Contest, judges will choose — the most creative picnic set-up.

Volunteers needed, call 488-6990 or e-mail brandythegreat@jeffnet.org.