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First pride festival held in Grants Pass

Savannah Blake/Mail Tribune - HIV Alliance Care Coordinator Donny Beer poses for a portrait during the Pride Festival at Green's Acres Farm in Grants Pass.

As someone who grew up in Grant’s Pass, drag queen Aaron Barber, also known as Ren.Agade, noticed that LGBTQ+ people were underrepresented in Southern Oregon. They wanted a place where people could celebrate who were in safe space without fear of judgment.

Barber worked for two months to bring the first pride festival to Grants Pass.

“There’s been some in Ashland, there’s been a few tiny ones in Medford — but this is the first time Grant’s Pass has had a pride,” Barber said.

As a local drag performer and someone who identifies as non-binary, Barber knew there would be no better time to celebrate LGBTQ+ members and allies than during Pride Month in June.

“Pride Month allows me to go out and strut my stuff,” said Barber.

Barber recruited drag professionals from all over the state to perform at the festival. They also featured pop-up drag show performances from three LGBTQ+ youth drag queens, including a 10-year-old with a stage name of “Strawberry Lemonade”.

While the festival served as a place for people to gather, Barber also intended it to be a place of resource.

In smaller towns around Southern Oregon finding help when you identify as an LGBQT+ member can be challenging, Barber said. The HIV Alliance was in attendance to distribute naloxone and provide HIV testing.

Throughout the festival crowds of people shuffled in to be a part of the celebration and were encouraged to be their authentic selves.

Barber hopes that events like this will continue to grow and will bring more awareness to Southern Oregon about the LGBTQ+ community. They said, “I just want to spread the love, it’s all about spreading the love - that’s what pride month is about, that’s what everyday should be about.”