Sexual minorities celebrate successes at annual music-filled Saturday in the Park

By Mary Ann Albright, Columbian Staff Reporter

Published:

 

If you go

What: The 17th annual Saturday in the Park celebration, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered pride event.

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Esther Short Park, West Eighth and Columbia streets, Vancouver.

Admission: Free.

Information:http://sitppride....>

There’s much to fete at this year’s Saturday in the Park, the 17th annual community event celebrating sexual minorities. For starters, New York just became the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage.

“We’re always celebrating any success we have in the equal-rights movement,” said Camas resident Vicki Smith, a member of the Saturday in the Park event planning committee.

However, there’s also something missing this year. Last month, The Northbank, Clark County’s only gay bar, closed. The bar opened in the ’80s, and partners Brent Bartling and Darrell Spoon had owned the downtown Vancouver venue since 2002.

With sales down and expenses up, Bartling and Spoon had to shut the doors to Northbank.

“My partner and I had put everything we could into it. We just couldn’t keep it going,” Bartling said.

The Northbank was cited by The Advocate, a national gay-interest magazine, when it ranked Vancouver the sixth gayest city in America. Vancouver ranked higher than San Francisco and Seattle. Portland did not make the list of the top 15 cities.

The Northbank helped fundraise for Saturday in the Park, as well as for Martha’s Pantry, a Vancouver food bank and resource center for people with HIV/AIDS. After Saturday in the Park, festivities traditionally would continue on at the bar.

“It’s a tremendous loss to the community,” Smith said.

And not just as an entertainment venue.

“It was really more than just a bar. It was really a community resource center almost,” said Corey Eubanks, a Portland resident and member of the Saturday in the Park event planning committee.

The Northbank’s absence will be felt, but this year’s Saturday in the Park, which takes place July 9, promises an array of activities and entertainment.

The event is put on by Saturday in the Park Pride, a group registered as a nonprofit with the state and currently applying for federal nonprofit status.

Saturday in the Park was founded by former Vancouver resident Ric Leonetti, who currently resides in Portland. The first event was held in 1994, in response to statewide anti-gay-rights initiatives. It was going to be a protest, but those initiatives never received enough signatures to appear on the ballot, so Saturday in the Park became a celebration.

It has continued as an annual event ever since, with the exception of one year that was skipped due to lack of funding. It started at Vancouver Landing at Terminal One, and moved to Esther Short Park for the first time in 2001.

This year, the festivities kick off at 11 a.m. after Lyle’s Myles wraps up. Lyle’s Myles (http://www.lylesmyles.com) is an annual charity walk/run benefitting Martha’s Pantry (http://www.marthaspantry.com), Cascade AIDS Project (http://www.cascadeaids.org) and Global Partners for Development (http://www.gpfd.org). It begins and ends in Esther Short Park.

Saturday in the Park will include entertainment by a number of performers throughout the day, including Lipz Cabaret, which was The Northbank’s drag review, and the band There She Goes, fronted by Vancouver’s Christi Mangner.

Other performers include Kiss Kill, Shannon Tower Band and Belinda Carroll, all from Portland. Comedian Carroll will serve as the event’s host.

Mangner said she is looking forward to the second Saturday in the Park for There She Goes.

“It draws a diverse crowd, and it’s a great way for the community to come together and support local people,” she said, adding that her band will play disco and ’80s covers good for dancing.

In addition to live entertainment, there will be food available for purchase at the event, and a beer garden for adults.

People also can bring their own food and have a picnic, Eubanks said.

There will be drawings for prizes, as well as booths with representatives from local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-friendly nonprofits, businesses and service providers. Additionally, Cascade AIDS Project will offer free rapid HIV testing, as well as health and wellness information.

Saturday in the Park is a chance to focus on people’s similarities and embrace their differences, organizers say.

“You’re not going to be able to tell most times a gay man from a straight man from a transsexual,” Smith said. “They’re all just folks just like everyone else, and they’re contributing — many of them significantly — to our community.”

The theme of this year’s event is “Bigger! Better! Brighter!” It ties into the It Gets Better Project, a movement aimed at providing support for sexual minority youths.

Seattle writer Dan Savage and his husband founded the It Gets Better Project in 2010 after a 15-year-old in Indiana whose classmates taunted him for being gay committed suicide (http://www.itgetsbetter.org).

Saturday in the Park organizers hope this event helps get the It Gets Better message across.

“Even though you’re going through tough times coming out, it gets better, it gets bigger, it gets brighter when you’re being true to yourself,” Eubanks said.

Mary Ann Albright: maryann.albright@columbian.com, 360-735-4507.