Loud and proud: Portland Pride festival celebrates love, acceptance
Observing the 164 groups marching in the Portland Pride parade on Father's Day, Sunday, June 18, one had to wonder — who wasn't there?
2017 would mark Pride Northwest's largest Pride festival and parade, with organizers expecting more than 60,000 during the weekend around Tom McCall Waterfront Park. An estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people marched in the parade.
Organizations and groups marching ranged from groups like the Latino Network to Oregon Eye Specialists to churches, credit unions and even Starbucks. All were adorned in some kind of rainbow attire to support of the Pacific Northwest's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
And people were loud, proud and extravagant — whether they identified as LGBTQ or not. The crowd was massive and diverse; one could not pick out any one particular group that overshadowed another — old, young, families, teenagers, straight and gay — they were all there, some dressed in colorful wigs, glitter, stickers and pins, and others simply there to enjoy the day's excitement.
"It's a very human event," says Debra Porta, who's been volunteering with the parade since 2006 and is now its executive director. "Portland has significant pride, so we have similar prides to a lot of other cities, but we're also known for retaining that small town feel. The parade is very diverse … it's considered to be one of the most family friendly pride parades."
Though, she laughs, "not everything is for 6-year-olds."
An example: some men were dressed in nothing but a speedo and topless women with only stickers to cover their nipples. But even then, parents weren't often seen shielding their children. In addition to celebrating the LGBTQ community, there was another theme one could sense at Pride: body acceptance. Bare skin was shown with no shame: large and hairy or skinny and bare, or any other body type.
Tim Pollard, a member of the Central Pacific Conference United Church of Christ in Portland, has noticed a change in the festival over the years — there's less stigma. The church has participated since early on, in 1996.
"There are more and more whole families coming here … or even straight high school students with their gay friends. There's no stigma in coming here anymore," Pollard says.
Pollard's church has many gay members and it offers a "simple message for of love and compassion for all fellow human beings. There's very little to argue about."
Only one group of people in an area near the parade route held signs with slogans things like, "Repent, turn to Jesus or burn," while one man wore a black T-shirt with the word "homos" crossed out in red. They were mostly ignored.
Such behavior is not tolerated by people like Will and Rick Polley, who have been married 19 years and have been attending Pride for just as long. "We're here to stand against ignorance and hate, and people who think it's OK to do that," says Will Polley.
Support each other
Sam Dickstein was in attendance with his baby daughter, Fay, 3, and wife, Galen. They were not only celebrating Father's Day — or also, as it happened, Galen's birthday — but love and acceptance.
"Love needs to win, especially this year, man," Sam Dickstein says.
Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann agreed. She attended the celebration with her daughter Brynn Lerma, who identifies as bisexual. Stegmann's district includes Gresham and East County.
"It doesn't matter who you love, as long as you love," Stegmann says.
She's concerned about some in the city and county feeling emboldened to be openly racist. "We have to stand up for one another. When one group is targeted, then we're all at risk. So we have to support each other. That's what Portland's all about."
Tribune intern Olivia Sanchez contributed to this report.