🌈 Into the rainbow of weird with Strawberry Pickle

It’s Wednesday. 

So let’s get a little weird, shall we?

Each week, we celebrate elements of Portland’s wonderful weirdness in collaboration with the fine folks at Weird Portland United (WPU).

If you haven’t read them yet — you can find our February Weird Wednesdays here, where we interviewed The Unipiper, local artist Cedar Lee, and The Portland Sleestak. And if you missed our interview with magician Spencer Sprocket, peep at that here, check out our chat with designer Sundari Franklin, and read our skating adventures with Carlos the Rollerblader from last week.

Today we’re putting on our favorite go-go boots, our blacklight masks, and pastel wigs, as we wander among triceratops, unicorns, and three-eyed clouds. Join us as we enter — as the Portland State University Vanguard put it — “a kaleidoscope of bouncing lights and neon graffiti, like a bowl of Fruity Pebbles filled with MD 20/20,” with none other than ingenue and creator of Rainbow City, the one and only Strawberry Pickle!

Strawberry was one recipients of WPU’s Keep Portland Alive grants in 2020 for her work on Rainbow City, a colorfully eclectic events space for public and private events. We reached out to learn more about herself, her creativity, and the magic behind it all. What follows is our interview, edited for length and clarity.

Strawberry Pickle has been finding incredible and creative ways to bring wonderful weirdness to Portland. (📸: Courtesy of Strawberry Pickle)

Tell me a little bit about yourself?

Hi there, I’m Strawberry Pickle! I grew up at a time when Portland was really at the peak of stone weirdness. I spent my days wandering the streets and popping into dollar punk shows, dancing till 4 a.m. at The City Nightclub, or getting married at the Church of Elvis.

How long have you been practicing your weirdness here in Portland, and what got you interested?

I have been weird my entire life and always felt like a misfit toy. I found that I often struggled with regular 9-to-5 jobs and was always trying to bend the rules or put a twist on everything. That isn’t always appreciated in the corporate world so it eventually took me on a path of creating a place that would host others like me, and enable them to work for themselves, on their own terms. I just had to find them.

Rainbow City is an events space for both private and public events, including (and not limited to) bellydancing. (📸: Courtesy of Strawberry Pickle)

How did you get involved with the folks at Weird Portland United?

I connected with Weird Portland after I saw they were having their first meeting and featuring Box Wine Boyfriend. He immediately just became a hero to me as I watched him speak about doing what he loved and so we followed his truth. 

The Unipiper and I had spoken a few times and he spontaneously asked me to speak publicly about what I was doing with Rainbow City. Afterwards everyone started coming up to me and telling me how much they loved what I was trying to do. I was taken aback at how well received and how at home I felt, finally, among all these incredible and unique people who had decided to break free from the norm.

You can find many wonderful creatures at Rainbow City. (📸: Courtesy of Strawberry Pickle)

What does contributing to the wonderful weirdness of Portland mean to you?

Portland is amazing. The energy from so many wonderful humans can be felt as you walk through the streets and see all the details and absolute love that creators have put into their businesses. My goal is to give others a platform to nurture their unique talents and turn it into a full time job. I feel that the tourism industry is going to be a huge opportunity for so many talented and eager artists to show the world a different perspective, while doing what they love. So far, I have over 100 creators actively involved at Rainbow City. Some have even become full time. Others have involvement such as volunteering, or hosting LGBTQ events, promoting awareness of community issues we can work on, or just coming in to stay in the flow by painting or building something to blow off steam and network with others.

We currently have about 20 vendors with varying scheduled, food carts, a licensed mobile tattoo bus, and a beauty salon. The diverse backgrounds of everyone seem to work very fluidly because we all want the same things, and to share it with others.

I want to break the stigma that you “have” to find a regular job. I believe people are at their very best when they’re doing what they love, and it’s something that can positively affect and inspire those who witness it. I have watched so many people light up when they walk inside and see other artists thriving in their element. I like to think of us as bright candles that gently re-light others who are feeling burnt out. The butterfly effect is a real thing.

A world of weird awaits you at Rainbow City. (📸: Courtesy of Strawberry Pickle)

Where can folks find you online, and do you have any upcoming events, news, things you want to shout out?

I can be found online on Instagram and Facebook — and I strongly encourage people to reach out with their talents and services so I can help connect them with others or help them find their home at Rainbow City.

You can find Rainbow City east of the Willamette and nestled in between the Buckman and Kerns neighborhoods. (📸: Courtesy of Strawberry Pickle)

Thank you to our Bridgeliner Unabridged members; your support helps make Bridgeliner, and original features like this, possible.