Creating community this Saturday: Oregon City to host Pride Night 2.0

Hate isnt welcome

Wesley Hanson had a vision of creating Oregon City Pride. The response to the first event, held in June, was so overwhelmingly positive, that a second event was planned. That event is happening this Saturday.

Isaiah Esquire & Johnny Nuriel

Isaiah Esquire and Johnny Nuriel, who married in 2015 when gay marriage was legalized in the U.S., are well-known drag performers who danced along Seventh Street in downtown Oregon City with a butterfly-and-net act.

Organizers of the first Pride Night in downtown Oregon City made some changes ahead of the event to address security concerns, but the event kicked off as scheduled and in a celebratory mood on June 24. City leaders, like Mayor Denyse McGriff, also showed their support.

Willa Evans, 54

Sue Millikin, who will be a sixth grader at Oregon City’s Tumwata Middle School in this fall, and Willa Evans, 54, were among the Pride attendees.

Hanson said he couldn’t do it alone. Many different types of people came together with one common goal, to make sure the Pride event took place. Here are some of the reasons they got involved:

“There are so many LGBTQIA+ people living in this area, the fact that Oregon City hasn’t had a Pride before 2023 is honestly shocking. It was incredibly overdue and needed to happen. Pride is so much more than an event, it’s a celebration of identity and resilience.”

– Lisa Halcom, Happyrock Coffee owner

“Cultural events like Pride play an important role in promoting understanding, acceptance, and equal rights for LGBTQ+ individuals, while also creating a sense of unity and celebration within the community.”

– Dr. Heidi Blackwell, director of education for the Mary Rose Foundation

“I hope this event is a vehicle to help create a more visible and permanent sense of community for LGBTQIA+ people in the broader Oregon City area”

– Alexa Lachman, president of the Oregon LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance

‘Love will always win’: Oregon City hosts Pride Night

‘Love will always win’: Oregon City hosts Pride Night

Primarily sponsored by Cascade Counseling & Consulting, the downtown Pride event featured vendors, music, drag story time and other events at the Good Burger Shack and Arch Bridge Taphouse.

A portion of the proceeds and donations went to The Living Room, a nonprofit supporting queer and trans youth in Clackamas County.

“It’s so important to have events like this and to highlight organizations that do things like what we do with LGBTQ+ young folks in particular,” said Bee Degraw with The Living Room. “There’s a lot of things happening in Oregon, and across the country, and across the world that cause a lot of anxiety, and I think it’s really important now more than ever to celebrate queer joy as much as we can.”

Additional money raised was slated to go to the Oregon City Children’s Theatre, which said about one-third of the kids who participate are LGBTQ+.

Hanson appeared in drag as Mizz Ecstacy Inferno.

“I was beaten, I was thrown in lockers, I had my head shoved in toilets all because of who I was. And I wanted no kid in this city to ever go through what I had to go through,” the performer/organizer told KOIN 6 News. “In the end, we always prevail because love will always win.”

Pride-goers at the event said the presence of far-right counter-protesters on the other end of downtown didn’t rain on their parade.

“I feel like there are some voices that are very loud but they’re very few,” attendee Nicole Ausmus said. “And I want to remind everybody who feels like maybe they can’t come out, maybe they can’t be who they are — there are many, many more people out here to support you than there are people who hate you.”

Sue Millikin, a sixth grader at Oregon City’s Tumwata Middle School in this fall, was among the Pride attendees. Millikin uses she/they pronouns and felt safe discussing pronouns with teachers at Oregon City’s Holcomb Elementary School but wouldn’t feel safe in places like Florida.

“It’s nice to be in a place where there’s no question whether someone is going to support you or not,” Millikin said.

Another attendee of the Pride event, Willa Evans, 54, went to Canby High School and didn’t feel comfortable coming out until the age of 48. Evans, who also uses she/they pronouns, said that homophobia in Clackamas County at the time delayed development and led to mental health issues for many people who grew up here.

Willa Evans, 54,

Prentice Geary of Cascade Counseling & Consulting, right, one of the sponsors of Oregon City’s first downtown Pride event, talks with members of the Dykes on Bikes group.

“All I knew was that I didn’t fit the role of what girls were supposed to be like,” Evans said.

While the event coordinators relocated the Pride Vendor Market and drag show due to parking and security concerns, organizers said the overwhelming support and turnout also played a role in needing a larger venue.

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