Laurie Wood performed at the 6th Annual Moab Pride Festival in 2016. [Photo courtesy of Moab Pride]

Every time poet Joy Young steps onto the stage to tell their story through poetry, someone in the audience needs to hear it, Young said. This year, Young – who uses the gender-neutral pronoun “they” as a self-descriptive pronoun – said they’re looking forward to hearing the Moab community’s stories in return.

In its seventh year, the Moab Pride Festival will feature free artistic workshops for the first time, with a diverse lineup of guest artists and local experts sharing their crafts in spoken, visual and written word, as well as workshops in self-defense and botanical medicine.

The workshops are featured along with popular traditional events like the Orange Party and burlesque performances, and will be held at various locations over the course of the festival that runs from Thursday, Sept. 28, to Saturday, Sept. 30. A visibility march will be held on Sept. 30 at noon; participants should gather at Swanny City Park, 400 N. 100 West, at 11:30 a.m.

“These workshops make the event way more accessible,” organizer Cali Bulmash said in a press release. “The artists aren’t just on the stage – they are on the ground sharing their skills.”

Moab Pride Festival’s main focus this year is creating queer visibility and providing safe spaces for QTs – queer, transgender, questioning, and straight ally youth and adults, according to a festival press release. Offering tangible skills taught from a queer perspective, the hands-on workshops aim to foster dialogue and provide safe avenues for expression.

Young performed last year, and took part in the first Moab Pride Festival Spit Love Slam Poetry contest. Young said they’re “really excited” to be back in Moab – particularly working with students at Grand County High School in collaboration with fellow guest artists this year.

“I feel like this year the community really needs what poetry has to offer,” Young said. “The more we promote open, honest conversations, the more we break down the illusion that the differences between us are insurmountable or warrant everything that comes when one is afraid.”

Festival organizers attest to the powerful outcomes of confident communication for the event itself, expressing awe and appreciation for the support they have received from the community as they rebooted Pride this year.

“Veteran Pride volunteers, allies and fresh new faces have all risen to the occasion to be part of something that feels inspired and motivated by a need in this community,” organizer Paige Stuart said, adding that the Moab Arts and Recreation Center has been “a huge ally in the process.”

Donations from local businesses and philanthropists created a surplus that will sustain activities and events for local young people, organizer Marci Till said.

“We have multiple venues as safe spaces, and many caring, supportive adults who want to be involved in assuring our youth that each one of them has value exactly the way they are,” she said.

The Gay-Straight Alliance at GCHS has already taken off, Stuart said. Students helped design this year’s Pride T-shirts, program and an art mural on the bike path.

“I hope the workshops empower individuals to explore their identity and share their stories, because when we share our experiences, I find the world gets a whole lot less isolating,” Bulmash said.

Hour-long workshops are open to the entire community.

Regie Cabico’s slam poetry workshop offers attendees an opportunity to draw on the inspiration of images, pop culture and autobiography to create powerful and personal spoken word performances.

Erika “Rikki” Longino will help participants get to know local medicinal plants and how to prepare them for specific uses.

Finally, Charissa Lucille of Wasted Ink Zine Distro in Phoenix will offer an introduction to the alternative publishing world of zines, chapbooks and do-it-yourself books, and offer guidance on selling published work.

7th annual Moab Pride Fest to feature artistic expression, skill workshops

What: Moab Pride

When: Thursday, Sept. 28, through Saturday, Sept. 30

Where: Locations vary

Cost: Free