2019.08.10.EMG.KMH.EugenePride2019-18

The festival continues while a counter-protest stands on the side. Eugene Springfield Pride in the Park takes place at Alton Baker Park on Aug. 10, 2019. (Kimberly Harris/Emerald)

Despite the pandemic and students leaving town, Eugene-Springfield Pride still plans to hold its in-person “Pride in the Park” festival on August 14. 

The three largest Pride month events on the west coast — San Francisco’s Pride Parade, Seattles’ Pride Parade and Portland’s Pride Waterfront Festival — all canceled their in-person festivities for the second year in a row due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

However, Eugene-Springfield Pride has consistently held its Pride in the Park festival in August. Bill Sullivan, president of the board of Eugene-Springfield Pride, said the later date provides a better weather forecast and increased participation from students and those who attend Pride events in big cities.

Eugene-Springfield Pride’s website said the festival is “a celebration of all that makes our community great, featuring live entertainment, delicious food and drinks, community partners, local vendors, family activities and more.”

“It’s more of a community event,” said Sullivan. “We have the park setting where people can bring their umbrellas and their picnic baskets and sit out in the grass and enjoy music throughout the day.”

He said the festival will kick off with a march that will start in town and end with festivities at Alton Baker Park 

Community organizers celebrated many Pride events in May before students began finals or left for home. 

Free Mom Hugs, an organization created to empower and celebrate the LGBTQ community, usually offers “free mom hugs'' at Pride events. However, social distancing made this difficult. The national organization instead planned simultaneous “Pride Rides'' in 13 states.

On May 22, Harvey Milk’s birthday, 30 caravans of cars decorated with rainbows and supportive signs drove through towns across the U.S. 

Heather Quaas-Annsa, coordinator for Eugene’s Free Mom Hugs Pride Ride, said, “It wasn’t something that a lot of people knew about, but just the smiles that we got and the thumbs up and the waving and the cheering and the honking — all these groups of people that have sort of been by themselves for so long. Just seeing the positivity that came from this impromptu little ride was pretty awesome.”

Quaas-Annsa said it was important to still have Pride events because many people in the LGBTQ community  have been stuck with their immediate families and might have lost their social support systems. 

“I think doing a caravan sort of just reminds people that there are allies in this community,” Quaas-Annsa said, “and there are people that love and support you.”

UO organizations also held some Pride events in May. The UO Women’s Center celebrated its 21st annual OUT/LOUD Queer and Trans Womxn’s Performance Fest on June 2. UO’s LGBT+ Education and Support Services held several Pride events, including keynote speakers Alok Vaid-Menon and Sonya Renee Taylor. 

Nathan Waldman, student leader of the LGBTQIA+ Jewish Student Social Hour and an LGBTQIA+ inclusion intern for The Oregon Hillel Foundation, said their organizations held three Pride events, including a gay, Israeli speaker, a safe spaces workshop and a Pride Shabbat.

“I think, during the pandemic, there’s not a lot of things to look forward to or to be excited about because every day is the same,” Waldman said. “With Pride month, we just kind of dance and have fun and be who we are.”

Despite this, Waldman said they will be remembering the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting during Pride month. The shooting occurred five years ago on June 12, the day of many Pride month celebrations. 

“It’s really important that we celebrate and bring all that excitement to Pride,” Waldman said, “but that we also remember that there are a lot of people who are no longer with us, and we want to remember everything they fought for and everything that they had to deal with for us to be where we are as a community.”