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New Pride event for Russian River announced

by Charlie Wagner

Jeff Bridges, left, general manager of the R3 Hotel in Guerneville, talked about the new Russian River Pride event with producer Rodger Jensen, who's also the event coordinator at R3. Photo: Charlie Wagner
Jeff Bridges, left, general manager of the R3 Hotel in Guerneville, talked about the new Russian River Pride event with producer Rodger Jensen, who's also the event coordinator at R3. Photo: Charlie Wagner  

A new LGBTQ Pride weekend will debut in Guerneville in August, to be called Russian River Pride.

The move comes a few weeks after Sonoma County Pride officials announced they were moving their June event back to Santa Rosa after nine years in Guerneville, in an effort to make it more convenient for visitors and attract more people.

The Russian River Pride theme is "A Celebration of Diversity."

Local activists responded quickly following the Sonoma Pride board's announcement.

Russian River Pride is intended to complement, rather than replace, Sonoma Pride. Sonoma Pride started in Windsor in 1987. But after attendance declined in the early 2000s, the Russian River chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence offered to produce the festival and parade on their home turf. Sonoma Pride moved to Guerneville in 2009.

Rodger Jensen, event coordinator for the R3 Hotel on Fourth Street in Guerneville, will produce Russian River Pride, aided by volunteer team leaders Christina Pappan, Larry Boeger, Whitney Williams, Jen Toland and Jeff Bridges, and many others. Jensen recently helped raise over $17,000 for Sonoma County fire victims.

The Russian River Chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is also involved and is providing the nonprofit status for raising funds. Jensen has been encouraged by early fundraising and said, "We've had many $500 donations and already have enough to cover the cost of the parade permits."

Jensen was also happy to note most of the Russian River Pride schedule has been finalized. On Friday, August 24, the fun will start with a First Friday Art Walk in Guerneville from 5 to 8 p.m., followed by a meet and greet at the R3 starting at 8, with karaoke starting around 9.

Saturday evening, Timberline Restaurant at 16440 Fourth Street in Guerneville will hold a Pride dinner from 5 to 8 p.m., followed by an R3 party with live entertainment.

On Sunday, the Pride parade on Guerneville's Main Street will start at 10 a.m. Though there will be no grand marshal or judging of parade entries, Jensen promised a street lined with speakers playing music selected by a live DJ. Supervisor Lynda Hopkins and other local elected officials are expected to march in the parade, as they have in earlier Sonoma Pride parades.

"We are not only an LGBTQ community," Jensen pointed out, "so we want to celebrate the diversity of people living along the River as well as the approaching end of summer."

Jensen has lined up multiple sponsors, including Drake's Brewery, which will sponsor beer busts on the weekends before and after July 4 and donate 100 percent of proceeds to Russian River Pride. The Rainbow Cattle Company has also pledged to hold at least three events and Absolute and Smirnoff will also be sponsors, according to Jensen.

After the parade, the West Sonoma Inn will host a "family and friends barbecue" where children will be welcome, and there will be no cover. At the same time and also with no cover, the Woods Resort on Third Street will host a 1980s-themed party, while R3 will be holding what organizers called a "contemporary adult pool party."

Jennifer Neeley, president of the Russian River Chamber of Commerce, described the chamber's support for Russian River Pride and said, "It is important to honor struggle and triumph in the fight for equality and to welcome people of all sexual orientations to celebrate gay Pride, and to ensure a brighter future in all communities."

Given the current political climate, Neeley predicted increased attendance at all gay Pride celebrations this year, including those in Guerneville and Santa Rosa.

"The chamber wishes the Sonoma County Pride organization much success in their move back to Santa Rosa," she added.

Jensen emphasized that the R3 continues to support Sonoma Pride in Santa Rosa and will host several Sonoma Pride events.

On Saturday evening June 2, "We will have a drag show starting at 9 p.m., followed by a dance," Jensen said, "and on Sunday we are planning a pool party from noon until 5 p.m."

The Russian River Pride website is under construction and will be live in the next few weeks at http://www.russianriverpride.org. The chamber website is http://www.russianriver.com.

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