Pride Fest Returns to Central Oregon Coast Town
By Jim Radosta
(Lincoln City, Oregon) - Just to clear up any confusion: Lincoln City's Iris Pride Festival is named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow - not the flower, not the colored portion of the eyeball.
Apparently, a few folks mistook last year's inaugural festival for "an optometrists' getaway or something," recalls Nichole Le Sage, who coordinates special events for the Lincoln City Visitor & Convention Bureau. Her agency organizes Iris Pride to celebrate the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community and to promote Lincoln City as a welcoming destination for this niche market.
"I get a lot of e-mails with things such as, 'I never realized Lincoln City was so forward-thinking!'" Le Sage says. "We're pretty understanding here."
The 2009 Iris Pride Festival, which runs from Sept. 18 to 20, boasts a series of parties (Fall Harvest Cooking Demo, Clam Bake, Flamingo Bingo) as well as a lineup of special guests including Cher and Bette Midler impersonators, the male dance troupe Burlesquire and the big band Rose City Swing.
The weekend's highlight will be the Jungle Love A-Fair, a kid-friendly event from 2 to 9 p.m. Sept. 19 in the historic Taft District on Southwest 51st. "We're going to have so many crazy, fun things down there," says Le Sage, including a "growling" contest, fire dancers, snake charmers, exotic animal performances and even free camel rides on the beach.
A new addition this year is "Family" Feud, which will pit drag queens vs. lesbians Sept. 18 and bears vs. gay men Sept. 19. Seating starts 8 p.m. at The Filthy, a two-level business that markets itself as "a unique adult dining experience," Le Sage explains. "The first level is a restaurant, bar, vibrator museum and novelty shop, and the second level is adult videos and adult toys and a head shop." The $5 cover charge benefits the Coastal AIDS Network.
The first festival drew about 1,200 people, and Le Sage says the response has been overwhelmingly positive: "I had one loyal picketer last year, and that's really it. I personally went to every business to hand out the posters for the event so that everybody was perfectly clear on what the event was, and I only had two businesses that were not happy about it."
Another complaint questioned whether the festival was a misuse of taxpayer dollars, but Lincoln City Visitor & Convention Bureau director Sandy Pfaff is quick to clarify that "the money used to fund this event…comes from transient room tax, which is paid by visitors who secure lodging." Besides, she adds, "pursuing the gay and lesbian travel market is justified economically," citing a Philadelphia study indicating that "gay tourism has improved the bottom line for regional businesses, attractions and hotels."
For a complete list of events and lodging specials visit www.oregoncoast.org.
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