Eugene's Pride in the Park will be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, at Alton Baker Park, 100 Day Island Road. Yet again, organizers are expecting their biggest turnout yet.
The Register-Guard spoke with the board president of Eugene/Springfield Pride, Brooks McLain, about what to expect this year.
Register-Guard: Every year, Pride seems to get bigger. How many people are you expecting this year?
Brooks McLain: It does. We're expecting, over the course of the day, about 8,000 to 10,000 people, 4,000 or 5,000 at one time throughout the day. It will be our biggest festival yet. We have almost 200 sponsors and vendors registered so we're taking up the entire park — using every tent we can get our hands on.
RG: In 2020, we saw the addition of a march to the festival. Is that happening again? Can you describe the significance of a march?
McLain: It is happening again. We will be gathering again at Spectrum before the festival at 10 a.m. It will kick off at 10:30 a.m. and then march to the festival through downtown.
The significance of a march is that the first Pride started with the Stonewall Riots in New York in 1969 and was really an uprising against oppression. As we're seeing nationally and even here at home in Oregon, transgender youth are being targeted and our work for queer liberation is not complete. It's important to keep marching and keep pressing society until it's really truly inclusive of all members of our community.
RG: Why is this celebration in August when many celebrate Pride in June?
McLain: The biggest reason is we're gay all year, not just in June.
Locally, it's really hard for us to secure space in June with the university's graduation, with the track and field events, and now Juneteenth. Also, there's the pride events that go on in Portland, Seattle and San Francisco — a lot of folks like to travel to those. So rather than trying to compete for oxygen in June, we do it in August instead.
Also, it's not raining in August.
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RG: Anything on your mind and the minds of other organizers surrounding this year’s Pride festival?
McLain: We have seen an outpouring of support from places we haven't traditionally seen it. So I think there is a hunger to show support for the community here locally. People who aren't queer in the community have let us know that they support us and they're there for us. We've had nothing but positive feedback.
I feel really good about where we are right now. I think there's a real desire in Eugene and in Lane County to show especially queer youth that they're supported by their community.
RG: COVID-19 is still spreading and Oregon has seen about 100 cases of monkeypox so far. Are there efforts to keep the gathering safe and educate people on what’s going on?
McLain: Absolutely. We will have HIV Alliance doing testing for STIs, as well as vaccines for COVID. We're keeping booths spread apart — like 10 feet between the booths so that people aren't piled in on top of each other. We have signage encouraging masks. We'll be giving out masks for free. G Street medical will be doing first aid and providing medical support to the event, so we really are trying to keep the community as safe as possible.
RG: There are workshops this year. Can you tell us more about the Narcan training?
McLain: CORE will be doing that. We have a workshop tent for the first time this year where there are several workshops going on and that is one. It's at 12:30 p.m.
I work at HIV Alliance and overdoses have been a huge challenge throughout the pandemic and it's even worse recently with the fentanyl in the drug supply. So we're trying to educate folks as much as we can about carrying Narcan and how you can save a life really unexpectedly sometimes.
RG: Are there any speakers or performers you’re particularly excited about?
McLain: I'm really excited to hear from Kyle Rodriguez-Hudson and Emz Avalos. Emz is on the board and Kyle is the executive director of Transponder. We really want to spotlight trans voices, especially trans folks of color and their experience and bring their concerns to the forefront. I'm excited to have workshops for the first time. I'm excited to have this amount of community support. We're going to have some newer drag queens that have never performed at Pride before on the main stage, so we're really excited to have new-wave drag on our stage.
We have a kids area for the first time. So we're going to have ultimate frisbee, playground sports, a host of vendors doing kids activities and a whole dedicated Kid Zone with a Pet Zone next door. There's a lot of new things at Pride this year. We've had our largest planning team ever so we've been able to pull off more than we usually would. It's really exciting.
RG: Do you still need volunteers?
McLain: We do, especially with tear down after the festival. We have a lot of energy to put it up and it's always a challenge to kind of stick around after it wraps up and make sure that we leave the park in the same condition.
(Go to https://www.eugenepride.org/volunteer for more information on volunteering.)
RG: Is there anything else you want to mention?
McLain: Just how important it is to be loud and proud in this environment and to not be kowtowed or intimidated by these threats of violence and intimidation tactics that we see going on nationally.
It's really important that we stand strong and stand together and that's what we intend to do.
This article originally appeared on Register-Guard: What to expect at Eugene Pride 2022 this weekend