As Sonoma County Pride moves back to Santa Rosa, a new Russian River Pride event emerges – Sonoma West

After eight years the Sonoma County Pride celebration will move from Guerneville back to Santa Rosa. With the change of location for the county celebration, a new event has emerged.  On Aug. 26, the first ever Russian River Pride will take place.

“Leaders of the Guerneville LGBTQ community, many of whom are members of the Russian River Chamber of Commerce, are planning a gay pride celebration in Guerneville,” said Russian River Chamber of Commerce President, Jennifer Neeley.

“It is important for the LGBTQ community to honor the memory of leaders like Harvey Milk, the struggle and the triumph in the fight for equality and acceptance, and welcome people of all sexual orientations to celebrate gay pride to ensure a brighter future in all communities.”

Planning is still in progress for the new event. Neeley said the Russian River Chamber of Commerce expects increased attendance at all gay pride celebrations this year, including those in Guerneville and Santa Rosa.

As of now, the move of the county Pride celebration from Guerneville to Santa Rosa doesn’t seem to be greatly impacting the local economy.

“Summer bookings are holding strong for our resorts, vacation rentals, and lodging catering to the LGBTQ visitor, which bodes well for all businesses in the area for the summer season,” Neeley said.

Sonoma County Pride started in Santa Rosa around 1987 with a picnic at Juilliard Park. In 2009, with doubts the celebration could continue, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence stepped in and held the parade and festival in Guerneville. It has stayed in Guerneville for eight years.

During that time Sonoma Pride restructured into a non-profit 501(c)3 organization and the event continued to grow. Sonoma County Pride Board President JD Donovan said the organization has struggled with recruitment of leadership roles because of the location.

“We agreed to move the meetings to Santa Rosa to recruit more interest,” Donovan said. “This attracted new interest in board members and people who are willing to volunteer their time to produce this 100 percent volunteer-run event.”

Since moving the meetings location, the county Pride board increased from four to 10 members. Donovan said the majority of the board members made the decision to move the event to a more centrally located spot. The event will be at the Old Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa, with the Pride Parade going down Fourth Street.

“The thought process behind this decision was that we are SONOMA COUNTY Pride, so we needed to be more accessible to the county as a whole,” Donovan said.

This year’s Sonoma County Pride will include a “kids zone” for children and families. It will be a three-day event beginning on Friday, June 1, with a comedy show in Santa Rosa, the festival and parade will take place on Saturday, June 2, from noon to 8 p.m. The R3 in Guerneville, 16390 4th St., will be hosting a drag show at 9 p.m.  Sunday, June 3, events include a LGBTQI film festival in Santa Rose and the R3 in Guerneville will be producing its annual pool party.

Donovan said the event still requires more volunteer help. Find more information on the Sonoma County Pride website (sonomacountypride.org).