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Ashland readies Southern Oregon Pride celebration

A drag queen and king will be crowned for the first time at the annual Southern Oregon Pride celebration in Ashland. The coronation will be part of a kickoff party to be held Friday, Oct. 11, in the Stevenson Union on the Southern Oregon University campus.

"I found a crown for the queen that is just fabulous," says Gina DuQuenne, president of Southern Oregon Pride. "It's 11 inches tall and covered with rhinestones. It's beautiful. We have five people vying for king and five vying for queen, so they'll be going all out. It should be a spectacular show."

The fun starts at 6 p.m. and goes until 11 p.m. DJ Hope of KISS FM will spin rock music for dancing, there will be a drag pageant and the coronation, along with hors d'oeuvres, beers and wines.

Each year, Southern Oregon Pride hosts a series of events to encourage lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, queers and intersexuals — and their friends and families — to come out and be proud.

"No matter what age, no matter what ethnic background, no matter what label, we encourage people to embrace who they are," DuQuenne says. "I embrace the word queer. If you look it up in a dictionary, it can mean different or diverse. I think that definition encompasses our community. Some people don't like labels, and to be queer is just something out of the norm.

"When we embrace certain words as queer or the n-word, then those words won't hurt us. This a community celebration, and we want everyone to come out and have fun."

The newly crowned drag queen and king will ride in a convertible Saturday, Oct. 12, in Southern Oregon Pride's parade down Main Street to Lithia Park. Grand marshall will be Minister Leslie Becknel Marx, and honorary grand marshals will be Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, and director of Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Daedalus Project, Eduardo Placer.

Look for Ashland High School's Gay Straight Alliance at this year's parade, along with drummers from the school's marching band, DuQuenne says.

"We get a lot of support from churches and the temples," she says. "This year, Mormons will march with us. This fact speaks volumes about how far the community has come in a positive direction."

A fun run will begin at 10 a.m., followed at 11 a.m. by the parade to Lithia Park, where there will be vendors, informational booths and gyro and Greek food from Turkish Delight food truck.

Live entertainment at the Butler Band Shell will include speakers Becknel Marx, Buckley and DuQuenne, along with live music by all-female rock band Blue Lightning and OSF's Daedalus Choir. Placer will emcee the entertainment.

Lotus Rising Project will host art and performances on the Ashland Plaza, with an anti-bullying rally at 4 p.m.

Then look for an evening of pride-hopping at downtown clubs Tabu, Oberon's and Alex's, culminating with a drag show at Taroko.

"We want to let people know that this is more than a celebration," DuQuenne says. "We hold a fundraiser each June to raise money for this event. At the end of this weekend's festival, we will donate a large percentage of those proceeds to a local nonprofit."

Last year, Southern Oregon Pride donated to Maslow Project, Dunn House the year before, and this year Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Daedalus Project, an annual event that raises money to end the spread of HIV and AIDS, will receive a donation.

Ashland readies Southern Oregon Pride celebration