For Amy Stocks next week’s third annual Moab Pride Festival represents a celebration of diversity in Moab, a celebration that she hopes will continue to bring the type of awareness to the community that she did not have growing up in Grand County.
“In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s there wasn’t a lot of resources or talk about queer people in smaller communities. I didn’t really know what was going on with me,” said Stocks, one of the founders of Moab Pride. “In general Moab is an accepting community, even though it is small. Those resources just weren’t available.”
The idea for Moab Pride came to Stocks in 2011 when she and Ali Lingle, the other Moab Pride co-founder, went to see a producer from the satirical newspaper The Onion speak at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. At the presentation the producer showed a video about a small town throwing a Pride parade for its one gay resident.
“I posted the video to my Facebook wall, asking when they were going to throw a parade for me. The response I got, not from the gay community, but from people I grew up with, people that were third generation Moab, was so supportive,” Stocks said. “All the straight community was like, ‘yeah, why aren’t we?’”
A community meeting was held and the approximately 20 attendees decided to hold the first Moab Pride in October of 2011.
Due to widespread community support the plans went forward smoothly, Stocks said, and the Saturday Visibility March saw approximately 500 people parade through Moab in support of the LGBTQ (Lesbian/Gay/ Bi/Trans/Queer) community.
Though many supporters came from the Salt Lake City and Denver areas, there were also attendees from across the country.
Local businesses also came out in support of the event.
“Pride has made me very proud of my town,” said Julie Fox, the owner of Eklecticafe and one of the earliest supporters of Moab Pride. “My three main issues are children’s rights, women’s rights, and gay rights, so that’s just right up my alley.”
In its second year Moab Pride grew to between 700 and 800 participants, making it the second biggest small-town pride festival in the country. The largest small town pride festival is in Pine City, Minn., which has been celebrating for nine years.
This year event organizers hope to double that number and expect around 1500 people to celebrate. In preparation they have been advertising at pride festivals and events around the region.
“Our outreach and our advertising is exponentially larger than before,” Stocks said.
This year Moab Pride is also offering Gay Adventure Week 2013. From Sunday, Sept. 22 through Friday, Sept. 27 Moab Pride will host adventure activities, drinks and dinners.
“We are donating 10-percent of the price of the trip to Pride then anyone who mentions Pride gets another 5-percent off,” said Arlo Tejada, the co-owner of Sherri Griffith Expeditions, of the Gay Adventure Week Westwater rafting trip.
Tejada expects the trip to sell out.
This year’s Moab Pride weekend will begin with an Orange Party at Frankie D’s Bar and Grill on Friday night.
The Visibility March will begin at 9 a.m., Saturday morning at Swanny City Park after Mayor Dave Sakrison reads a city proclamation supporting Moab Pride. The march will be followed by a festival from 11 a.m. until dusk at Old City Park, with local vendors, live music, a disc golf tournament, educational panels on LGBTQ history loaned by Utah Pride Center, and a kids corner hosted by local non-profits.
Author, activist, columnist, and public speaker Wayne Besen will also be speaking at the festival. Besen has been nominated for Lambda Literary Awards for his book ‘Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.’ He is now the executive director of Truth Wins Out, an organization whose mission is “to combat the ex-gay myth and right wing propaganda.”
The Moab Free Health Clinic will be providing free STD testing at the event.
The after party will begin at 9:30 p.m. at Woody’s Tavern, with the drag show beginning at 11 p.m.
Music for the weekend will be performed by a wide range of local and regional artists, as well as acts from across the country.
Moab Pride will finish with a Dine Out For Pride brunch at Eddie McStiff’s Restaurant from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Many in Moab, from businesses, to government, to individuals, feel that hosting Moab Pride is an attribute for the community.
“It seems like a good event for the town as a whole,” said Tejada. “It shows, especially in a rural town in Utah, more openness than most people would think. I think people like to travel to places that aren’t just beautiful, but interesting, and it adds an element to our town that people wouldn’t expect.”
“I think a lot of people come for the Pride Festival then they want to come back and do activities. The returnees are definitely going to feed the community in a lot of different ways,” she said.
Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison said that Moab Pride also helps to highlight the diversity of the town.
“I think it’s brought awareness about the diversity of this community,” he said. “I think this movement is gaining momentum. Provo is going to have their first Pride Festival, so I think that says quite a bit.”
In the future, Moab Pride hopes to continue expanding and to eventually become an organization with a year-round, physical presence in the area.
“It’s about building on the event and becoming more than just this one thing a year,” said Jenn Oestreich, one of the organizers for Moab Pride.
This year Moab Pride plans to start running anti-bullying and diversity groups at Grand County schools. For Stocks, the goal of Moab Pride is to ensure that local youth have access to the resources that she did not.
“My hope is that we have opened those doors so that no one has to feel alone or isolated in any way,” she said.
“For a few, something like a Pride festival might be able to show them that they are not alone and that there are people like them,” Oestreich said.