PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As Pride Northwest gears up for the 2023 Portland Pride Waterfront Festival and Parade, which is slated for July, it’s important to look back on the Rose City’s history of pride celebrations.

New York’s Stonewall Riots that occurred in the late 1960s were the catalyst for many gay rights movements and many pride celebrations across the nation, Portland’s included.

In 1967, The Stonewall Inn opened as a gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. According to CNN, the establishment was one of few places where gay people felt like they could congregate and dance at a time when there were many anti-homosexual laws in place.

Even though the bar acted as a safe space for many, it was still targeted by law enforcement in the city. In June 1969, police collided with patrons at The Stonewall Inn who had grown tired of their LGBTQ+ spaces being raided. The raid led to what is now known as The Stonewall Riots, in which hundreds took to the streets of New York to advocate for gay rights.

The Oregon Historical Society remembers this event as one that radicalized an entire generation of gay men and lesbians. According to the society, gay Portlanders started organizing for the first time in March 1970, just a year after Stonewall.

Gay & Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest, or Northwest LGBTQ History, says the first Portland Pride happened the following year.

“The Second Foundation of Oregon, a Portland-based gay organization founded in 1970, holds Oregon’s first Gay Pride celebration with an indoor dance in Portland [in 1971],” GLAPN said. “The Second Foundation also holds celebrations in 1972 and 1973. The organization disbands some time in 1974.”

Later in the fall of 1975, the newly-founded gay rights organization Portland Town Council kicked off the city’s first outdoor pride fest. About 200 attendees joined the celebration in the South Park Blocks nearby Portland State University.

GLAPN reported that 1976 marked the first Portland gay pride march. Lesbian activist Kathleen Saadat told the organization that she and six other community members organized the event that welcomed around 200 guests.

KOIN 6 asked OHS and GLAPN for photos of the city’s premier pride events, but the two organizations don’t have any available in their archives.

“Unfortunately, there wasn’t much photography done at the earliest Pride celebrations because people were afraid of being outed,” GLAPN President Robin Will said.

Despite this, though, the number of Portland pride supporters had grown immensely by 1977.

“[In 1977] Portland Town Council (PTC) organized Pride celebration and for the first time thousands walked in the march and celebrated with beer, dancing and political speeches at Waterfront Park,” former PTC Executive Director Jerry Weller told GLAPN.

Fast forward to 1984, and a formal Pride committee has been formed to plan the annual event.
Unfortunately, the organizing group went bankrupt in 1993. Pride Northwest was created the following year so that pride celebrations could still go on in the years to come.

Pride NW has taken the reins on Portland Pride ever since then, attracting thousands of visitors to the festivals and parades that honor the local LGBTQ+ community.