Salem’s Pride in the Park returns to celebrate LGBTQ community this weekend

Those who missed out on celebrating LGBTQ Pride in June have another chance to come together in colorful glory this weekend.

Saturday is Salem’s annual Pride in the Park, organized by Capital Pride, a local nonprofit group with a mission to uplift the voices of the LGBTQ community and celebrate pride all year round. This year, organizers are expecting their biggest event to date.

The event, held in Salem’s Riverfront Park, will feature nearly 140 booths for vendors and local organizations this year, compared to about 40 in previous years.

“We’re about three times the size of last year and last year was the second largest that I know of… so it’s a big jump for us,” said Zachary Cardoso, president of Capital Pride. “In the past we’ve only ever had the old amphitheater and Riverfront Park, but this year we’re also expanding to the south lawn behind the carousel and we also have the new food truck area.”

Capital Pride takes place from 10am to 6pm and is free and open to everyone.

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The event will include multiple food trucks, live music and drag performances, a community arts area, a vineyard, a kids’ corner with activities, vaccination clinics and more. This is the first time since the pandemic that the event will be similar to their 2019 event, as 2020 had to be virtual and 2021 was heavily masked.

“People are excited to be able to do things in the community again,” Cardoso said, adding growth is one of her goals for this year.

Capital Pride’s main event always takes place in the fall. It’s usually Salem’s premier Pride event of the year, although this year the community got the chance to host another event in June, organized by a different group.

In part, since June is such a busy month for Pride events, Capital Pride is hosting its event in the fall to ensure local queer artists and performers can attend. But it’s also more than that.

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“We firmly believe that you can’t just be queer in June, you can celebrate Pride all year round,” Cardoso said. “And that’s one of our long-term goals: to celebrate Pride all year round, so our plan is to continue our historic event in late summer, early fall, but also add additional events.”

The event is free and open to everyone. Capital Pride is working hard to create an accessible event for all, so all booths have specific access for those with mobility needs and all live performances are translated simultaneously into American Sign Language, Cardoso said.

“For one of our booths, we plan to video capture people who want to tell stories about National Coming Out Day,” he said. Capital Pride has been celebrating National Coming Out Day for three years and this year is asking anyone who would like to participate to share a coming out story or any other story about their experiences as part of the LGBTQ community.

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They will then compile these stories into a video and release it on October 11th.

Cardoso said they are aware other Pride events may be scaled back or canceled due to safety concerns. There will be private security surveillance facilities at the event to maintain community safety around the event.

While this will likely be the biggest pride at the park, Capital Salem has no plans to stop there. Cardoso said he hopes it will continue to grow in the future, hoping to organize a queer prom in the spring, reviving a queer touring group that was active in the area decades ago, as well as creating more community-building events and activities throughout the year.

Contact reporter Jordyn Brown at [email protected].

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