Centerpiece of four-day event fills downtown streets
Lining Ashland’s Siskiyou Boulevard in multicolored attire and bearing flags and banners representing the LGBTQ+ community, parade-goers in the Southern Oregon Pride Parade filled the town with festivity and flair Saturday morning.
As British R&B singer Estelle’s “American Boy” rang through the streets, participants assembled floats and made last-minute adjustments in anticipation of the parade’s 11 a.m. start.
Leading the 13th rendition of the annual parade in the back of a pink convertible coupe, Ashland drag queen Miss Jaxon was flattered to have the honor of heading the procession.
“It’s been the honor of a lifetime to be a part of it, especially since I started doing drag a year and a half or two years ago, and to go from being this little baby queen to leading the parade and hosting all of the festivities is so amazing,” Jaxon said. “At a time when drag is under attack and queer people are under attack, we’re here to show Southern Oregon that we’re loud and proud and that we love everyone.”
Ashland 13-year-old Addi Brock was part of the parade, wearing stilts with friends and showing her support for the LGBTQ+ community.
“I like to stilt, and I’m an ally of Pride as well,” she said. On the significance of celebrating Pride, she said it’s about “being able to be you in the way that you are.”
Southern Oregon Pride organizer Theo Jacques was busy unfurling a 20- by 10-foot rainbow flag, arranging the banner and other parade pieces with other organizers.
“This is our second Pride since COVID happened, so we’re trying to get it back up,” said Jacques, an Ashland resident. “I started organizing with (Southern Oregon Pride) last year, and we’re just trying to make it as big as it was before.”
Last year’s celebration brought out 30 groups and hundreds of attendees, with Jacques estimating about the same turnout for 2023.
While downtown Ashland was full of support and allyship, Jacques discussed the lack of support in many cities and states across the United States, including some parts of Southern Oregon.
“In an area like Southern Oregon, it’s really important to be able to have such visibility and community and just to show that — especially to younger queer kids — that we’re here and that there’s a safe space for them,” Jacques said. “It’s definitely a reminder of where we came from and how long we’ve been fighting for equal rights and to be seen as people.”
“Here in Southern Oregon, especially pre-COVID and during COVID, we didn’t have as much visibility for queer people and drag performers,” Jaxon said. “It has exploded within the past year, and I have been getting so much good feedback about that, and it’s so important for people that are queer to see other people that are loud and proud so that they know that they can be themselves, and that there are people here that are just like them.”
Paula Fowler, Carolyn Wetzel, Pastor Dan Fowler and Marcia Hunter of First Presbyterian Church of Ashland attended the event to show their support.
“When we found out that they were doing this, I was like, ‘Come on, we’ve got to do this,’ so we’ve got our truck with the float and we want folks to know to love God and love people,” Dan Fowler said.
The local church has been attending and supporting the Southern Oregon Pride Parade for the last nine years.
“It’s important for churches to be here, because there’s too many churches who say this is wrong, and it’s not,” Wetzel said. “Really, God loves all, and come as you are.”
“I have three nephews who are gay, and I’m marching for them today,” Hunter said.
After the parade wrapped up, Pride events were scheduled to continue into Saturday and Sunday, with a bar crawl around Ashland’s Black Sheep Pub, Beaux Club and other spots to close out Saturday.
Sunday’s events include the Rise and Shine party at Paschal Winery in Talent starting at 11:30 a.m., drag shows from 1 to 4 p.m. at Brickroom in Ashland with brunch, lunch and drinks, and the festivities were to close with the Disco Deeper After Party at the Beaux Club starting at 6 p.m. Sunday.
“I’m most excited for my brunch tomorrow at Brickroom, because I’m hosting with my drag sister Misty Transition, and I haven’t seen her in a little bit, so I’m really excited to be back on that stage with her tomorrow,” Jaxon said.
To learn more about Southern Oregon Pride and the organization’s weekend events, visit sopride.org.