Beaverton shows its Pride
One of the first LGBTQ Pride events Eljay Johnson ever attended was the legendary San Francisco parade. She went more than 30 years ago, and still remembers it with awe.
"There were so many people," she said. "I grew up in a small town, and that just blew my mind."
Johnson attended Beaverton's Pride in the Park last Sunday with her wife, Marisa. And while the event wasn't nearly as large or impressive as the celebration in San Francisco, or even the one in Portland, it was special for a different reason: It was Beaverton's first Pride festival.
Held across from the Beaverton City Library, Pride in the Park is the brainchild of recent City Council candidate Kate Kristiansen. The inspiration came to Kristiansen during a panel discussion on diversity during her campaign, and she filed paperwork with the city for it the next day.
"Everybody needs somewhere to belong," said Kristiansen, who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community, when asked why she wanted to bring a Pride event to Beaverton. "This is to show people, whether it's the children or the grownups, that your people are out here and your people are here today."
Over a six-week period, Kristiansen assembled a small team of local volunteers, used her social network to find LGBTQ- and ally-owned local businesses to operate vendor tables, and made much of the small festival's signage and decorations herself. She also connected with drag queen Rusty Nails — who emceed the event with gusto — through Facebook.
"I'm so happy to be here," said Ms. Nails. "For a first Pride, this is great."
The Johnsons, residents of Southeast Portland, also learned about Pride in the Park through Facebook. They wanted to support the fledgling Pride celebration and invited their friends from Hillsboro to meet them there.
Beaverton residents John Duggar and Quinn Simpson were among the volunteers who helped Kristiansen put the event together. Both active volunteers in the city — Duggar is chair of the Highland Neighborhood Committee — the married couple met Kristensen during her campaign.
"Things like this popping up in Beaverton is very exciting for us," Quinn said, adding that they weren't necessarily trying to compete with the Northwest Pride parade and festival in Portland.
"This is a very different Pride," Duggar said. "This is for family to come out and show that Beaverton welcomes people, too."
The festival, which started at 11 a.m. and ran through 4 p.m., featured dozens of local vendors, a few food trucks and a DJ booth pumping upbeat music. One of those vendor tables was operated by PFLAG, or Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
PFLAG member Linda Trimmel has two LGBTQ-identifying children in their 30s. She said that when they came out to her while in their 20s, she felt "no different" about them.
"To me it's a non-issue," she added.
Trimmel is active in the Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ, a local LGBTQ-friendly church. Bethel members have made a tradition out of marching in Portland's Pride parade, but the Beaverton event offered a chance to celebrate much closer to home.
"It's exciting that Beaverton's getting on the bandwagon here," Trimmel said.
The crowd in attendance ranged from families with kids to senior citizens. Teenagers Madi Luehrs, Ocean Moser and Gabriel Irby came to the festival together, after one of them heard about it through their church. The trio sported Pride-themed rainbow attire and face paint.
"I'm so excited to have so many other LGBT people around me right now," Irby said. "It feels really good."
As Kristiansen took a break from the day's heat by standing in the shade behind a vendor's table, she had some good news to share: Beaverton's Pride celebration will include a parade next year. The city has already approved a route.
She said she had encountered some pushback when organizing the day's event, including feedback from some community members telling her that she was "going to hell."
"I'll drive the bus, it'll be OK," Kristiansen joked. "It will be pink and glittery, and we'll have really good music."
As Kristiansen pointed out, the first Pride celebration was born out of the Stonewall riots of 1969, when gay and transgender people protested a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York City. The riots are considered the start of the American LGBTQ rights movement.
Pride has come a long way from that Stonewall to Pride in the Park — the first was a demand for tolerance and decency, while the latter is a celebration of acceptance and visibility.
Duggar said he looks forward to seeing Beaverton's own Pride develop in future years.
"Five, 10 years from now, we can look back," he said, "and see that it grew into something bigger."