The Salem Pride event kicks off Saturday with a march and live performances downtown

The new event will give Salemites the opportunity to celebrate Pride Month in addition to the city’s long-running end-of-summer Capital Pride event.

Nicole attended Capital Pride on Aug. 21, 2021. (Helen Caswell/Special to Salem Reporter)

Salem residents this Saturday can start their mornings with yoga, join in a pride parade, and enjoy queer comedy, drag shows, and live music downtown.

For more than a decade, Salem has held its LGBTQ Pride event in August — rather than Pride Month in June — to avoid competing with big cities and encourage year-round Pride celebration.

The city now has the best of both as a new one-day event, Salem Pride, is set to debut Saturday in downtown Salem on State Street between Liberty and Commercial Streets.

Aaron Naden, who works on the event’s planning committee, said Salem Pride organizers intend to focus the event on celebration.

“We want to celebrate inclusivity and diversity in the Willamette Valley as a whole for the queer community,” he said.

Naden said he heard from many Salem residents expressing their desire for a pride event in June.

“We just wanted to bring this opportunity to the Salem area,” he said of Saturday’s event.

Naden said they don’t want to compete with Capital Pride, the city’s grassroots LGBTQ Pride event, which will have a booth at Salem Pride.

He said they had recently spoken with organizers Capital Pride about collaborating on a future annual event starting next year.

Capital Pride is also scheduled for September 24 at the Riverfront City Park Amphitheater. It started in 2001 and became a nonprofit in 2004, with the Capitol Forum and other organizers previously holding Pride events in Salem. Zach Cardoso, president of Capital Pride, said this is the 44th year of Pride celebrations in Salem.

“We’re not trying to take over in any way,” Naden said. “I’d like to put it in good hands and let it run.”

Salem Pride has been in the works for about two months. “We’re excited to help do our part to bring the queer community together,” he said. “It’s closing a downtown street, so it’s a big deal just for visibility.”

There will be at least 30 booths, with around 10 non-profit organizations. Naden said the majority of retail and for-profit kiosks represent small gay-owned businesses.

The day begins with yoga at 10 a.m., followed by a pride parade at 11 a.m. and a launch event at 11:30 a.m.

Drag, comedy and music performances are scheduled throughout the day.

There will be two rounds of drag performances and a third for open stage drag, during which those brought in by the organizers will have their first chance to drag in front of a crowd.

Naden said he also hopes to work with Keizer Pride in the future. Organizers canceled their 2022 event due to security concerns.

Keizer held its first-ever Pride event in June 2021, which drew protesters.

In a statement announcing the cancellation of this year’s event, organizers said members of a group called the ‘RV Saltshakesrs’ came from Rogue Valley to protest the event, squeezed through the crowd and filmed the faces of unconscious children and families. The group then doxxed the organizers, according to the statement, by posting personal information and a photo that included their children on the Internet.

“As the organizer of this event, a queer black resident of Keizer, parent of two trans youth, I do not believe I can in good conscience risk exposing my beautiful queer community to any possible harm or hatred,” the statement read. . . “I know it’s upsetting, and it’s a decision I’ve been struggling with for several months now, but I have nothing left to do but my gut, and it’s telling me to take a break.”

Naden said Salem Pride would not work with police for their event, but hired Turtle Island Protection Services, which provides gay-friendly security. “There are even gay people on staff who will be our security for the day of the event,” he said.

Naden was born in Salem and lived in central Oregon for a few years with her husband, Clayton Riley, before moving back in 2019.

They are two of the few gay business owners in downtown Salem, along with Naden’s Capital Menswear at the Reed Opera House and Riley’s Flowers in the Alley nearby.

“We care about a downtown community and involvement here,” Naden said.

Full schedule (subject to change):

10:00 a.m. – Yoga

11:00 a.m. – Pride march

11:30 a.m. – Welcome/Kick-Off Event

12:15 p.m. – Drag performance

1:00 p.m. – Comedy

1:30 p.m. – Slide on the open stage

2:00 p.m. – Public Participation Event

2:30 p.m. – Cello performance by Tommy & Josh

3:00 p.m. – Comedy

3:30 p.m. – Drag performance

4:00 p.m. – Music by Jeffri

4:30 p.m. – Comedic headliners

5:00 p.m. – End of the event

Parking will be available near the event.

Contact journalist Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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David H. Henry