For many members of the LGBTQ+ community in Eugene and Springfield, the annual Eugene-Springfield Pride Festival is not just about having fun — it’s also about finding community.
“I’m not like normal people,” said 19-year-old Lane Community College student Scarlett Landon, who identifies as nonbinary. “I fit in here.”
The annual Eugene-Springfield Pride Festival was held in Alton Baker Park on Saturday, Aug. 11 to celebrate the area’s LGBTQ+ community. This was the 27th year that the festival was hosted by the nonprofit Eugene Pride Day Equality Project, said Bill Sullivan, the organization’s president, who added that the area’s LGBTQ+ community had been unofficially holding gatherings years before.
“I just feel community is important,” Sullivan said. “We really need to stick together.”
Sullivan said that Eugene-Springfield Pride is held in August so that the event does not get metaphorically drowned out by the Pride events of major cities such as Portland and Seattle.
Sullivan said that although the Pride Day Equality Project is still calculating the exact number of attendees, this year’s festival saw a record number of visitors. In previous years, there was anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000 attendees in the venue at any moment.
Attendees adorn in rainbow apparel — rainbow-patterned shirts, tutus, pants, dresses, thigh-high socks, wrestling singlets, sashes, lanyards, plastic necklaces, dyed wigs and unicorn horn headbands — tied multicolored flags around their necks as capes, glittered their beards and painted their faces during Eugene and Springfield’s biggest pride event of the year.
The number of vendors also grew: This year, 75 local vendors — including Starbucks, the Eugene Intimate Health Center and Spectrum Eugene — set up shop at the festival, while previous festivals would see about 45 vendors.
In addition to the festival’s expenses, donations taken at the festival entrances raised money for a new Pride Day Equality Project scholarship for children of LGBTQ+ parents and LGBTQ+ students. Sullivan said that as of Aug. 12 the donation money was still being counted.
At the start of the event, Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis and Springfield Mayor Christine Lundberg declared Aug. 11 as the cities’ official LGBTQ+ Pride Day.
“The City of Eugene and the Pride Festival proudly state that we support our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, and Love Will Win The Day,” read the official Eugene proclamation.
Funky jazz and pop music set the stage for performers from local drag performance groups such as the Glamazons and the Farce Family, as well as for independent drag queens and kings.
“Even if you’re not in the queer community or whatever, still come,” said Eugene drag king Beezus Ponokino Pingwing, who is also known as Chang Bronstien. “If you go to an event like this, no one’s ever going to have a problem with you being yourself.”
One attendee, Jaylynn Marvel, sported a tie-dye hat and t-shirt. When Marvel, 14, first came out to his parents as bisexual, they accepted it, but “didn’t really want to talk about it.” Later, when he came out as transgender, it was a different story.
“They told us that it was a phase,” said Marvel, referring to him and his stepsibling, “and they told us that it’s because women are treated equal in today’s society.”
He and his stepsibling, Lexi Glass, who uses they/them pronouns, had only just gotten to the festival minutes earlier but were already hoping on coming to next year’s Pride.
“I thought it was going to be empty because you don’t hear much about LGBTQ+ stuff around here,” Glass, 13, said, “And then when I come here, I’m like ‘Oh my gosh, there’s thousands [of people].’”
Marvel expressed similar sentiments, highlighting the importance of the LGBTQ+ community in the Eugene-Springfield area. “Coming out may seem scary, but it’s worth it in the end and people might not accept you,” Marvel said, “but they’re always going to be plenty of people who will.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that this year’s festival had 20 vendors and that previous years had six to eight vendors. The festival had 75 vendors this year, an increase of 20 vendors from last year’s festival.