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Southern Oregon Pride festival returns after two years

A group of smiling people walk in the street in a parade. One person is holding a large rainbow sign that says "pride" and others are holding rainbow colored flags and accessories.
People march in SOPride's last in-person parade in 2019.

One of Southern Oregon’s oldest LGBTQ Pride festivals returns in person this weekend after a two-year hiatus.

Since Southern Oregon residents marched in Ashland’s first Pride parade over a decade ago, a lot has changed for LGBTQ people. Oregon didn’t legalize gay marriage until 2014.

Southern Oregon Pride founder Gina DuQuenne said the festival is still important for many young people.

“Something that I believe Pride does is it allows young people to know that they’re not alone and to see themselves," she said. "And to normalize it if they’ve grown up in some kind of homophobic family or area or neighborhood, to know that 'hey, I’m alright.'”

DuQuenne, an Ashland City Council Member, started the LGBTQ Pride festival in 2010. She said they chose October because June is already a busy month in Ashland. October 11th is National Coming Out Day, and it's also LGBTQ History Month.

“We need for people who are out to know that they are safe, and we have allies," DuQuenne said. "And just come out and play. Because for two years nobody was playing anywhere.”

This is the first in-person Pride festival in Ashland since 2019. The parade was cancelled in 2020, and SOPride hosted a virtual festival last year.

Since DuQuenne started Ashland's Pride festival, other cities in the region have followed suit. Organizers in Klamath Falls held their second annual Pride festival in July, and in June, Medford hosted its first Pride event in many years.

DuQuenne said she’s happy to see so much support from local businesses. Friday through Sunday, local LGBTQ friendly restaurants and bars are hosting a “Pride Crawl," a Pride-themed restaurant and bar hopping experience.

The parade will take place starting at noon on Saturday and head down Main Street toward the Lithia Park Bandshell. After the parade, festival-goers can see performances from local LGBTQ artists and allies.

Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.