UPDATE: Citing concerns of poor air quality due to residual smoke from wildfires and high temperatures, the event has since been canceled, with a new date yet to be announced.
When Clayton Kammer and Eli Addison took to Facebook to announce planning efforts for Columbia County's first Pride parade and festival, the reaction was mixed.
Some were eager to get involved and voiced support for an event celebrating the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community. Others responded with blatant homophobia and suggested the event be held elsewhere. A larger faction shot back with thinly veiled disapproval.
"Why do you need a parade?" was a recurring question.
Addison, one of the primary organizers, along with fellow staff members at Medicine Wheel Recovery Services, says the social media responses demonstrate a lack of understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ people, which is why he and others want to see the event happen.
"There's been some mixed feedback from the community but ... we live and work in this county ... we really want to do something here," Addison says, gearing up for the Aug. 12 event's next planning meeting. "We don't feel like we need to always go out to the big cities of Portland or Seattle to
celebrate everything we fought for, basically since Stonewall."
Addison is referring to the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, when police and bar patrons clashed at the Stonewall Inn, a noted gay bar in the city, resulting in riots.
Addison said having a Pride event, particularly on the outskirts of an urban city, aims to remind county residents of their diverse community, and bolster acceptance of others.
"It's not that we feel we need to showcase ourselves, but if it's never talked about, never seen, the worst parts of it — the violence, the discrimination — prevail. There are currently 30 states with anti-LGBT laws on the books."
Addison and his husband, Kammer, have two young sons. He said the goal of next month's Pride event is to host a family-friendly community gathering for everyone.
The event will begin with a parade at noon Saturday, Aug. 12, in St. Helens, beginning at the corner of Columbia Boulevard and Highway 30, moving down to First Street near the waterfront. The parade will be followed by a small festival-style event at St. Helens Middle School, featuring food and vendors.
Parade entry fees for businesses and organizations are still being fleshed out by event organizers, but Addison estimates they will be around $50, which also covers a vendor booth at the festival.
"We won't turn anyone away who wants to participate, but can't because of costs," Addison notes, saying fees will likely be waived for local gay-straight alliance student organizations.
All proceeds will help cover the event costs like permits, portable toilets and costs to use the middle school.
Those interested in participating or volunteering can call 503-396-5322.