June is Pride Month, a time when we all gather, in person this year! Shouldn’t it also be the time when we have our in-person Pride festival? After all, all the big cities have their pride festivals in June: New York, New Orleans, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Bend, Oregon – okay, so maybe other smaller cities, too. Well, it is partly because larger cities are hosting pride in June that Blue Ridge Pride hosts ours in September. The first formal Blue Ridge Pride Festival in Asheville took place in 2009 thanks to a small group of very dedicated, very awesome volunteers.
One of those volunteers was Amy Huntsman. She recalled that there were a few reasons for having it in the early fall season. “The decision came around our local partnerships with the City of Asheville and the Downtown Association and partnerships with other local prides. We wanted to have a weekend that would be special, coincide closer with National Coming Out Day (October), not compete with Belle Chere and other summer festivals, and that would be specific to our area and not coincide with the pride festivals in South Carolina, Tennessee, or other North Carolina Prides.”
Another founder of the first pride celebration, Ashley Arrington added: “That first year, we held it in MLK Jr Park on a rainy Saturday and around 2,000 people showed up. We knew then we had something special and built out from there, moving to Lexington Avenue the following year… It’s amazing to see it now and how much is the same, but also different after all these years.”
We have been getting a lot of community questions about why Pride is in September. Some would prefer it in June. On the plus side, it allows our community to share the love of Pride year-round. It allows people to experience pride in multiple cities and with multiple circles of friends. The September weather also draws a larger audience – one of the goals of any outreach effort. In the meantime, we’re not dormant in June. We use the time to support other events and organizations, such as GRINDFest and Hola Asheville (both June 19th). We think it important that our city festivals start to model the kind of intersectional collaboration we seek in our communities and workplaces. We hope that everyone in our community will support these two incredible events.
This year, Pride is taking place on Saturday, September 25 at Pack Spare Park in downtown Asheville from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. You won’t want to miss this year; we have some time to make up for so we’re pulling out all the stops! If you’re interested in volunteering, sponsoring, donating, being a vendor, or would like more information, you can click volunteer at the top of the page.