FALLS CITY — Polk County’s only LGBTQ Pride festival is now a sanctioned event in Falls City.
Falls City residents City Councilor Lori Jean Sickles and Laura Britton, owners of The Boondocks, and John Volkmann and Keith Zinn, owners of The Bread Board, teamed up to throw the first Pride celebration in 2015.
“Falls City Pride began as a way to bring people together,” Zinn said. “All people.”
On July 8, the Falls City City Council voted 5-1 to make Falls City Pride a sanctioned community event, which is defined as “those to which the city provides some type of support (typically non-monetary), but is not responsible for event management duties.”
In a report to the council, City Manager Mac Corthell recommended the city sanction the event.
“For five years now, a group of Falls City community members have thrown a Pride celebration, which attracts people from all over the world and all over the community to Falls City for a celebration of equality, a rejection of prejudice, and an opportunity to experience both the natural and interpersonal beauty our community has to offer,” Corthell wrote in a memo to the council.
It started as a way for Falls City residents to celebrate Pride, but the event has had a much wider draw.
“We draw folks from all over the world because it is inclusive,” Zinn said. “And word has spread in the Portland area, which is an international community. Countries represented have included Italy, the Philippines and Mexico.”
Dana Schowalter, Falls City Mayor Jeremy Gordon’s wife, spoke in support of the city sanctioning the event. Schowalter and Gordon have hosted Pride events at their house in the past, and have become close friends with Sickles, Britton, Volkmann and Zinn.
“We have been so lucky to have people like John, Keith, Lori and Laura who make spaces for people to come together,” Schowalter said. “When it comes to Pride, they were making the space they needed for themselves, and in doing so, they created a space that so many other people needed as well.”
She said she wasn’t sure what the outcome would be when the question was before the council.
“I was actually a bit nervous because I knew members of the LGBTQ+ community would be in the room, and I was worried that by filing this resolution and inviting people to speak about this event that we would also be opening them up to hearing hateful things,” Schowalter said.
Those fears didn’t come to pass. She said the people at the meeting spoke about the importance of recognizing the event from a variety of perspectives.
“I was so proud to be in the room and have the experiences of this community validated by so many voices,” she said. “I love Falls City, and I talk about all the great things about this place wherever I go. In a way, this vote was a public and official tally of what I love about this place. This town is a little bit of a lot of different things, and that is what makes us stronger.”
Zinn and Volkmann, on the other hand, were certain the event would be sanctioned, and said the vote reflects the values of Falls City.
“It was a very gratifying and humbling to be present for the vote,” Zinn said. “The community of Falls City embraces and celebrates diversity.”
This year, Falls City Pride will be Aug. 17 - 18, with events such as Pride Party and the Mayor’s House, Pride Dance Party at The Bread Board, and Pizza Party at The Bread Board.