The coronavirus pandemic has led to numerous event cancellations on the North Coast.
Rather than canceling this year’s Astoria Pride celebration, the Lower Columbia Q Center has restructured the event through online videos and in-person events that follow social distancing guidelines so community members can participate.
Astoria Pride will be held Thursday through Sunday, followed by a couple of additional events the following week. This year’s event theme is “We are one.”
The show goes on
“This year is our fifth year,” said Tessa Scheller, Lower Columbia Q Center chair. “It’ll have a homegrown, organic feel, which is part of what makes Astoria Pride special.”
“This event is very local talent,” Scheller said. “It’s more meaningful that way. In the past we’ve had some well-known people come perform but that’s not the focus this time. We’re doing our best to showcase who we are.”
The festivities will start on Thursday at 7 p.m. with an opening ceremony on YouTube, including introductions to some of the event’s performers and organizers.
Friday’s celebration will include Astoria Pride’s “Gayla Act I,” which will be available to watch starting at 7 p.m. on YouTube or at 10 p.m. in Heritage Square.
“We’ve got some pretty good entertainment around here,” said Dida DeAngelis, Lower Columbia Q Center vice chair. “We like to focus on the individual entertainer so they can express themselves in their own way … When you can get on stage for five, 10 minutes, and convey where you’re at, it’s quite something.”
Saturday’s celebration will follow suit, with “Gayla Act II” going live on YouTube at 7 p.m. and at 10 p.m. in Heritage Square.
“Our shows have been planned to keep up with the times,” DeAngelis said. “The Gayla will be family-friendly.”
Parking spots for the drive-in will be available on a first come, first serve basis in Heritage Square and on surrounding streets. Those who can’t find a spot will be allowed to bring a lawn chair to watch the video.
“A good part of it’s entertainment. Some of it is camp and silly but some people will read essays and provide some thoughtful context as well,” Scheller said.
The weekend’s finale will feature a drive-through car parade throughout downtown Astoria starting at noon on Sunday.
“We love a parade. We love our colors and the imaginative expressions of the diversity of who we are,” Scheller said. “We knew we had to do a parade somehow … We will decorate our vehicles, keep it safe, honk our horns and do our princess waves.”
Those who want to decorate their car and join the parade are welcome to, DeAngelis said. The parade will also be livestreamed for those who can’t join in-person.
“We’re treating it like a drive-by birthday,” DeAngelis said. “Come by with your car all decked out if you want.”
On Wednesday, Coast Community Radio will host a “radio rainbow dance party” at 8:30 p.m. on its station, KMUN 91.9 FM. On June 20, the Q Center will upload a “drag queen story hour,” where local drag queen “Daylight Cums,” Marco Davis’ persona, will read stories for children.
“Daylight has appeared before at other story places, is the creator of “Dragulation!” and is a mentor to other people. She is queen, let’s not doubt it,” Scheller said. “This will be a fun event for parents to show their kids this is OK. This is a fun person.”
Adapting to changes
The center’s board of directors decided to close the center in March in order to follow social distancing. At the time, the group wasn’t sure whether they’d still hold a Pride event.
“That was very difficult for us as we’d just had our grand opening at our new location,” Scheller said. “We couldn’t ask ourselves or our volunteers to go door to door to explain what Pride is for us and to ask for sponsorships.”
Since the March closure, the center has relied on phone lines and video meetings to stay in contact with staff and visitors.
“Having to close our doors during the pandemic really bugged us,” DeAngelis said. “We’re here for a reason and it’s not just to entertain everybody. It’s to help serve.”
In addition to Astoria Pride, the center runs support groups, a “Q Choir” and one-on-one services. The center is in the process of becoming bonded and licensed so they can provide more services for local youth, DeAngelis said.
“We hear from the community every day. We have support groups for all kinds of people: sobriety groups, peer support groups. We know how important it is to have mentors. We hear from people ages 7 to 70,” Scheller said. “We know we have to be here for the community. We put on a heck of a party each year but we also want to talk to people about resources.”