Winter PrideFest 2024

Winter PrideFest, a weekend of winter activities geared towards the LGBTQ+ community and their allies, returned to Bend from March 7 through March 10. Founded in 2018 by OUT Central Oregon, a local LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, the event’s sixth iteration was arguably the best yet.

“This year, we raised the bar for ourselves,” said Brayan Gonzalez, Acting President of OUT Central Oregon. Winter PrideFest started much smaller, with only four events and a fraction of the attendees in 2018, and has grown exponentially in the years since then. Gonzalez aimed to maintain the upward trajectory in 2024 by bringing in well-known queer performers and offering a wide variety of opportunities to socialize and enjoy the culture of Central Oregon.

Festivities began on Thursday, March 7, with a “Welcoming Snocial” in the Old Mill District. The Snocial event welcomed guests of all ages and featured food, drinks and a performance from drag queen and former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Willam Belli.

The next day, Friday, March 8, Winter PrideFest offered three evening events. “Wigs! An Icebreaker,” a family-friendly night of ice skating at the Seventh Mountain Resort, ran from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and offered music, dancing and a drag show. Meanwhile, at the Midtown Ballroom, famous comedian Dana Goldberg hosted a queer comedy routine that, according to the Winter PrideFest website, “would be banned in Florida!” The third event of the night, a guided snowshoe trip with Wanderlust Tours, gave more adventurous attendees a chance to appreciate the beauty of the night sky and warm up with a bonfire and hot cocoa before returning to town.

Saturday, March 9, boasted a full day of activities, beginning at 9 a.m. and lasting until midnight. Attendees of all skill levels flocked to Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort for a morning of skiing followed by a party at the West Village Lodge. For those over 21, events continued into the evening, with a wine tasting at West Coast Provisions and the much-anticipated Winter PrideFest Dance Party at the Midtown Ballroom, which drew a crowd of over 1,100 people. Winter PrideFest came to a close with a Drag Brunch at the Volcanic Theater Pub on Sunday, March 10, ending the weekend on a high note. 

“I think [Winter PrideFest is] great for socialization,” said Lauren Leavell, a Portland resident and novice skier who has participated in the gathering for the past two years. “Especially after the pandemic, it feels like there’s just not a big volume of events happening.”

“As a queer individual, I think representation matters,” said Guillermo Alejandre, a Californian who attended Winter PrideFest with friends from Central Oregon. “If you don’t have these types of events, sometimes you feel a little bit isolated…having these types of events will build some type of a community.” 

Unfortunately, festivals like Winter PrideFest are far less common than they should be. But that doesn’t mean they are unimportant. With numerous sold-out events and guests flying in from as far as New York and Georgia, it seems that OUT Central Oregon has achieved its goal for Winter PrideFest: to provide a place for members of the queer community and their allies—locals and out-of-towners alike—to find their people and enjoy a weekend of fun in Oregon’s largest winter travel destination.