#164 Moab, Utah, turns out for gay pride

Tucked into dry Utah hills, just south of Arches National Park and to the northeast of Canyonlands National Park, Moab is small Mormon town of just over 5000 souls. As of the 2010 census, 78.8% of them were white. It’s not the kind of place you would expect to see a gay pride parade.

But if you had been on Moab’s main street on October 1, 2011, that’s what you would have seen and probably even joined. Amy Stocks and her partner Ali Lingel organized the parade and Moab Pride, because they don’t want LGBT youths in Moab to grow up feeling isolated. Mayor David Sakrison supported it, saying, “I think it celebrates our diversity.”

Moab Pride has a Web site, but the best place to learn more about them or to connect is on their Facebook page. One of the parade’s onlookers videotaped it so if you watch the video below you’ll get a sense of the setting and the 200 people who turned out to march. The festival attracted 300 more.

A friend sent me the best article I read about the parade and why it was so significant, “Why Pride Matters in Small Town Moab, Utah“. Diane Anderson-Minshall interviewed Sallie Hodges, Moab Pride Festival Creative Director, who said:

I can’t really describe the emotions I felt by being a part of such a life affirming experience. As we marched, people on the sidelines clapped and cheered, there were no jeering or mean spirited expletives. In fact, the community as a whole — from the police department to City Hall — have been nothing but incredibly accommodating and very supportive.

500 people celebrated gay pride in Moab. That’s 10% of the population, in a town dominated by a church that spent a lot of money supporting California’s fight to forbid same-sex marriage. By supporting a parade and festival, Moab residents are calling for openness and acceptance. They give me hope that other rural, conservative communities will be inspired by Moab’s example and intolerance and bullying will end.

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2 comments
Jenn Oestreich - September 7, 2013

Thank you for your coverage & that we give you hope! <3 We have included this on our website: http://moabpride.org/pressinformation.html

I have included our press release for this year & schedule of events….I hope you will join us!

For Immediate Release: August 20, 2013
Contact: Jenn Oestreich, media@moabpride.org http://www.moabpride.org or Amy Stocks, Founder, 801-792-3426
Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/moabpride/ Sets: Media & Press
Audio: Jen Jerrett’s Small Town Pride on Soundcloud- http://snd.sc/13xLrH5 or PRX- https://www.prx.org/pieces/101053-small-town-pride
2013 Theme: Naturally Engayged
Moab Pride, The Nation’s 2nd Largest Small-Town Pride Festival, Celebrates Its 3rd Anniversary
September 27-29th, 2013
Moab, UT ~ Moab Pride expects to triple its attendance for its third anniversary next month September 27-29th, 2013. This unique event is the second largest small-town Pride Festival in the United States. Moab Pride, an affiliate of the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City, UT, aims to "Entertain, Engage and Delight" festival goers with a mix of outdoor adventures, artistic expression, and love of community.

Moab Pride distinguishes itself from other festivals with the inclusion of Moab Gay Adventure Week leading up to Pride; the first locale in the country to connect outdoor recreation with a GLBTQ Pride Festival. This relationship between events plays to the strengths of the community, connecting one important aspect of Moab—the natural landscape, including Arches and Canyonlands National Parks—with another—unity. Moreover, linking adventure to the Pride Festival allows the organizers to reach a more diverse audience, with participants traveling from the Four Corners region, Pacific Northwest, California, and beyond to mountain bike, canyoneer, whitewater raft, jeep, and hike.
According to a survey conducted by the San Francisco-based Community Marketing, Inc., and Department of Commerce tourism statistics, gay and lesbian tourism generates more than $65 billion a year in the United States. Moab Pride recognizes the potential to tap into this niche by offering a lucrative and unique experience only found in Moab. Moab Gay Adventure Week sets the stage the week prior to Moab Pride offering a destination vacation experience for GLBTQ travelers seeking adventure and warm weather. Every facet of the Moab Pride Festival and Moab Gay Adventure Week share a unique and entertaining aspect, including the origins and initial inspiration.

Amy Stocks, Founder and a third generation Moabite, drew her muse for Moab Pride by watching a satiric video from "The Onion" about a small town throwing a pride festival for its only gay man. Amy posted the video on her Facebook page with a note asking when her own hometown, Moab, Utah, was going to throw a party for her. Amy got more than she expected. Instead of a few laughs, the community responded with, “What a great idea!” Through this small action based on the bravery of Amy, Co-Founder Ali Lingel and an open minded town, Moab Pride was born.

The revenue generated from Moab Gay Adventure Week and Moab Pride Festival events will be put toward creating a permanent drop-in center and office space in town to facilitate offering a larger scope of services to the local GLBTQ youth, allies and visitors. The organizers desire to create a more sustainable sense of pride and unity in Moab that surpasses that felt during the one week of the festival. A sentiment from a former resident exemplifies the need for such services.

“It makes me proud, as a gay man from Moab, to see my hometown having such an inspiring event. When I was growing up there, I had no gay friends I could talk to. In fact, I was the only out kid in high school,” said Benton Johnson. “I really feel like this festival is a fantastic opportunity for gay youth in Moab who might be questioning or scared. It makes me happy to think that today's youth won't have to go through some of what I did.”

To succeed in creating a more established presence, the organizers went on tour promoting the mission of Moab Pride. In June 2013, National Gay Pride Month, Moab Pride organizers hit the road to tour Grand Junction’s Colorado West Pride, Salt Lake City’s Utah Pride Festival, and the Denver Pridefest, which boasts an estimated attendance of more than 330,000 people, to promote Moab Gay Adventure Week and the Moab Pride Festival. Moab Pride succeeded in impressing upon these larger gay pride events that a rural Utah community, like Moab, can also create a successful event in a supportive, accepting, and unique manner. Part of that success was due to the presence of The Chundra, a former UPS truck transformed into an artistic vehicle with an exploratory lounge and interactive adventure/storytelling environment. This vehicle serves as the visual mascot for Moab Pride and embodies its mission and promise to entertain, engage, and delight. Based on the positive crowd response, The Chundra and the message about the unique Moab Pride Festival, the Moab Pride organizers anticipate tremendous growth opportunity in their third year. For Moab, pride is more than just a party and a parade. It is a political statement heard far beyond the town's borders. The attendance of approximately 500 people at the first parade (equal to 10% of the total Moab population) illustrates how
important this event is to not only the organizers and GLBTQ community, but also the rural citizens and others desiring to show that Moab is just as progressive and supportive of creating equality and visibility as larger cities and events. Foundations such as the Community Foundation of Utah recognize the value of Moab Pride’s presence in the community. They recently awarded them the LGBT Community Endowment Fund to establish a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) chapters in Moab, in cooperation with Club Red: Moab Teen Center. Several new and returning national, regional and local organizations and businesses have joined to support or increased their giving for the event. These include: The Human
Rights Campaign Equality Utah, ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Zion’s Bank, gaytravel.com, Wabi Sabi, The Synergy Company, Hot Tomato Café, Moon Flower Market and the Moab Barkery.
“Small-town Pride events… are the ones creating change,” said Donna Narducci, former Executive Director of Atlanta Pride. “It's easy to blend in with 300,000 of your friends, and another to be one of several hundred. That takes guts!”

In only its third year, it would appear that Moab Pride has achieved their intended endeavors. The festival now holds the distinction as the nation's second largest small-town Pride Festival.

The festival stage at Old City Park on Saturday afternoon is featuring The Lovebirds, a folk/pop duo featuring award-winning San Diego songwriters Lindsay White and Veronica Maya. The Lovebirds create a flurry of sights and sounds, incorporating a variety of instruments and costumes during their performance.

Singer/songwriter Nicole Torres returns to Moab for her third year as Nico Tower and the Radioactive Folk Orchestra. This special brand of radioactive folk music enchants with powerful vocals and soul-stirring harmonics. The Vision is a feel-good band from Salt Lake City, UT, returning to Moab for their second year.

They have an eclectic mix of music that leaves no options for the listeners but to dance along and feel the love. Birdie and the Black Sheep, also from Salt Lake City, are an all-female band, with a blues and rock sound that loves to play some rock 'n' roll. They promise to throw guitar picks into the Dirty Birdie section if you promise to throw bras. The 2013 Moab Pride celebration will kick off with the “Orange Party” following the final day of Moab Gay Adventure Week.

This year’s “After Party” will be headlined by divaDanielle, a Los Angeles-based DJ. Porter Tinsley, SHADE co-founder, called her “without a doubt one of Los Angeles's champions of house and electro music… a DJ's DJ, and a total crowd pleaser.”
From adventure to music to visibility, the 3rd Annual Moab Pride Festival is guaranteed to entertain, engage, and delight, as well as reflect the aptly chosen theme for this year’s event: “Naturally Engayged.” The organizers see the festival as a gift to everyone and a chance to bring people together to enjoy the beauty and big heart of Moab. Ultimately, it is pride in each other and community that this festival aims to create.

WAYS TO PARTICIPATE and GET ENGAYGED
Seeking donations, sponsors, trade services, volunteers, market vendors, entertainers and Visibility March participants. Information about Moab Pride is available at http://www.moabpride.org. Or Facebook

Information about Moab Gay Adventure Week is available at http://www.gayadventureweek.com. Or Facebook.

Reply
    Cathryn Wellner - September 7, 2013

    What fabulous news, Jenn! My granddaughters are growing up in Australia, where the newly elected government is swinging to the right. Their beautiful mothers want to marry but are not allowed. We put our hopes on younger people, who are far more accepting of people’s identities than many in our generation. Go, Moab!

    Reply
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