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Amy Stocks, 34, remembers how "isolated" she felt as a lesbian teen in Moab in the mid-1990s. Now, she hopes to show gay and transgender youths in her small Utah town that they are not alone. In fact, there are quite a few grown-ups both gay and straight who are throwing a big party to celebrate Moab's diversity.
On Oct. 1, Moab will hold its first gay pride festival. The Utah Pride Festival in Salt Lake City now draws upward of 20,000 attendees each year, but festivals outside of the capital have been slow to take root in the Beehive State. The Southern Utah Pride Festival ran for six years in Springdale, outside of Zion National Park, but has been defunct for the past few years.
Stocks and Ali Lingel, who are co-founders of Moab Pride, hope to make their redrock festival an annual event. As an affiliate of the Utah Pride Center, they have the support of the organizers of Salt Lake City's massive fest. Eventually, Stocks and Lingel want to open a resource center in Moab for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youths.
"There's really nowhere for gay teenagers in Moab to turn to," Stocks said.
She hopes the festival will show LGBT individuals in Moab and surrounding areas both young and old that there is a "huge community of support."
Last year, both Moab and Grand County passed ordinances that prohibit housing and employment discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.
"I think it says we're a very welcoming community," said Moab Mayor David Sakrison. "I welcome [the pride festival]. I think it celebrates our diversity."
On Oct. 1, the festival begins with a "visibility march" from Swanny Park down Moab's Center Street. Participants are encouraged to wear costumes, and Lingel, 24, thinks many will.
"People in Moab love dressing up. It's one of the things I love about this town," said Lingel, who moved to Moab a year ago from Seattle. "We're hoping to come out with noise makers and costumes."
Sister Dottie S. Dixon, a fictional Mormon mom of a gay son played by actor Charles Lynn Frost, has been named grand marshal of the festival, which runs from 2 to 7:30 p.m. at Old City Park. The free event is funded by private donations and sponsors. There will be live music from bands Marinade, Sister Wives, and The Vision and activities such as painting, horse shoes, frisbee golf and a children's area.
"We are making it extremely family-friendly. We realize it is southern Utah so you can't get too eccentric with what you put out there," Stocks said. "I'm hoping a lot of the Moab community shows up."
Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center, said the Moab Pride volunteers, including Helene Rohr and Sallie Hodges, have helped strengthen the center's statewide network. Larabee sees Moab Pride offering support in a variety of ways in the future, from helping families accept LGBT youths to providing sensitivity training to businesses.
"They'll easily build a foundation for a festival next year," Larabee said. "Everyone comments on their enthusiasm and vision for what's possible in the Moab area."
Plans are in the works, too, she said, for the return of the Springdale festival in 2012.
The idea for the Moab festival grew from a joke on Stocks' Facebook page. She posted a video from "The Onion," a satirical news source, of a small town throwing a pride festival for its only gay resident and asked "When's my pride festival?" But she was overwhelmed by the number of people who thought it was a great idea.
"It just kind of exploded from there," Stocks laughed.
Moab Pride Festival
Moab residents have organized the city's first pride festival for members and friends of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
The main events include:
Kick-off party • 7:30 p.m. Friday. Guests are encouraged to wear orange. Frankie D's Bar & Grill, 44 W. 200 North, Moab. Cost: $10.
March • 11:30 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 1. A "visibility march" with Grand Marshal Sister Dottie S. Dixon begins at the southeast corner of Swanny Park, 400 N. 100 West. Costumes encouraged. Free.
Festival • 2 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Saturday. The main festival features family-friendly musical entertainment and games, including face painting, frisbee golf and horseshoes, Old City Park, Old City Park Road, Spanish Valley (south of Moab). Free.
After party • 9 p.m., Saturday. Drag performers and DJ Jen Woolfe provide entertainment, World Famous Woody's Tavern, 221 S. Main St., Moab.
RSVP • Attendees are encouraged to RSVP on Facebook, http://on.fb.me/pbUMRN.
More information • http://moabpride.org