Organizer reiterates that Saturday gathering in park is open to everyone

If You Go

• What: Vancouver USA Pride

• When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday

• Where: Esther Short Park, West Eight and Columbia streets

• On the Web:

One way Vancouver USA Pride differs from other celebrations, such as last month’s Portland Pride Festival, is that there are no fences, which can be a good and bad thing.

No alcohol is served at the event in Esther Short Park celebrating the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community. That would legally require fencing that organizer Micheil MacCutcheon said is expensive to rent anyway. Without fences, people can come and go freely for the all-day festivities known for being family friendly.

“We have tried to maintain every year that this is free and open to everyone, even those yelling at us and calling us vile names,” MacCutcheon said.

He said that last year, people with megaphones told those in attendance that they were sinners. Somebody recently posted similar name-calling on the Facebook group Saturday in the Park Pride that’s used to organize and update people on the event.

The message “was a painful one to read,” MacCutcheon said.

That kind of backlash is rare, though. Vancouver USA Pride has gotten larger every year for the past few years, and at least half of the people who attend are heterosexual people showing support for the LGBTQ community, MacCutcheon said. There’s security personnel, and last year the Vancouver Police Department had a booth for public safety and to recruit officers.

Most pride events are in June, but Vancouver’s event is on the second Saturday in July to avoid competing with those gatherings and other events. The two-day Portland Pride Festival was the weekend of June 17.

This year, June was recognized unofficially as LGBTQ Pride Month as President Donald Trump did not acknowledge it among five other proclamations he signed at the end of May, declaring June the month to celebrate the great outdoors, homeownership, oceans, African-American music appreciation and Caribbean-American heritage.

Traditionally, Pride Month honors the Stonewall Riots that happened in New York City. On June 28, 1969, police raided a gay bar, which led to a riot that lasted several days. (At that time, publicly engaging in gay behavior, such as holding hands, kissing or wearing gender-inappropriate clothing, was illegal.)

Vancouver’s annual pride celebration began in 1994.

Unlike bigger city pride events, Vancouver’s is smaller and more intimate, making it easier to talk to everybody, MacCutcheon said.

“It’s a fun day with different kinds of experiences all day,” he said.

There are games, food vendors, different bands performing, comedians, carnival acts, drag queens and a dyke march. Government officials and people running for office will also speak at the event.

“We try to make sure there’s something for just about every age group,” MacCutcheon said. “There are a lot of vendors who are coming for the very first time, including hospitals.”

PeaceHealth, Kaiser Permanente and Legacy Health will have booths. People can also get free, confidential medical testing done, including testing for HIV or sexually transmitted diseases.

Vancouver USA Pride’s main festivities are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the park, but there’s also the Lyle’s Myles 5K race earlier in the morning and the Gay Vancouver Pageant at Renegades Bar and Grill in the evening.

Money raised through Vancouver USA Pride and the race goes toward Martha’s Pantry, Global Partners for Development, Cascade AIDS Project, local youth organizations such as Triple Point, and some money goes back to event organizer Saturday in the Park Pride to support next year’s event. The event also helps sponsor college scholarships for LGBTQ youth that memorialize local activist Bonnie Tinker, who died in 2009.

Author: Patty Hastings