Falls City, Ore. is a rural community of just over 1,000 residents. And this year, it will celebrate its first city-sanctioned Pride.
On Monday, July 8, the Falls City City Council voted 5-1 in favor of making Pride an official event. After Yachats, it will be the second-smallest Oregon city to formally recognize Pride.
Dana Schowalter, an event organizer and professor at Western Oregon University, says unofficial Pride celebrations started in the city five years ago, when the owners of two gay-owned businesses put out a notice for a Pride camp out.
Schowalter says only a few people came to that first unofficial festival, but it "grew organically." Last year, the event moved from a small city park to Schowalter's home along the river.
"It was a big gay swimming extravagaza," she says.
But the decision to ask city council for formal recognition of Pride wasn't easy.
"The fear for me stems from the fact that quite a few high school students have come out in the last couple years and they were met with mixed reactions," Schowalter says. "But it ended up being an overwhelmingly positive council meeting. It went from fear of what might happen to a real sense in the room that history was in the making."
Including Portland, there are 11 other official Pride events in Oregon—in Yachats, Astoria, Bend, Salem, Eugene, Coos Bay, St. Helens, Rogue Valley, Hillsboro and Hood River.
This year Falls City, 70 miles south of Portland, will celebrate its inaugural Pride on August 17, with a swimming party, live music, games held at the mayor's home and a dance party.
"The point of Pride is to be open and make and demand space and recognition," Schowalter says. "There's a real sense of being able to accomplish that in making Falls City Pride official."
She continues: "There's also a hope that other small towns in the area will see this and see that you don't have to be in a big, very liberal city to move forward in this way and affirm all members of the community. If this tiny town can do it, anyone can do it."