Pride Festival lets people enjoy being themselves

Published 12:01 am Sunday, June 18, 2017

By Beth Meadows

Special to the Salisbury Post

When we were planning the first Salisbury Pride Festival, we were a diverse group, and I do not believe any of us knew everyone in the group. Two of the current members of the Salisbury Pride Board, Tamara Sheffield and Mary Ja Mee, called me a few days before the first meeting of the founding group and asked me to attend as they were going to be out of town (imagine that!) and it sounded interesting to them. Would I be willing to go and see what it was all about?

Well, I wasn’t doing anything that weekend, and I had been to Charlotte Pride and was intrigued. So, here several years later, the two of them and I, along with 10 other friends, are about to hold our seventh Pride event in Salisbury because it turned out to be more than interesting. It was an enchanting, eye-opening experience for all of us.

As we were planning the first Pride event, we figured we may have 500 or so folks; our friends and their friends would come out for the day. Boy, were we wrong! Some 2,500 or so of our friends and their friends, and their neighbors and moms and dads and sisters and brothers and — well, you get the picture — showed up for a wild, wonderful, exciting day filled with music, love, laughter, food, dance and performances by locals who most of us did not know but had heard would do a good job.

What we discovered was that Salisbury desperately needed a safe place for our LGBTQ community, young and old, to be able to be themselves. A place where they could hold hands and not be chastised. Share a secret smile and not be condemned. Hug someone they loved and have someone else join in just for the sheer joy of it.

We anticipate this coming Pride —being held on June 24 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Wallace parking lot at Lee and Fisher — will be all of this and more. This year’s Pride event will feature many of the same groups as in the past, as well as more vendors and sponsors than ever before — local and national groups, vendors and churches from the straight and LGBTQ community.

Since our first Pride event, we have found that we are needed in more places and at more times than just that one Saturday afternoon in June. We are asked to participate/sponsor local events; Chickweed, Stop the Violence Summit, Toss for Tots and the MLK Parade are a few that come to mind. We use our voices to help others as we did with our Trans Conversation and Educational Forum, which was the impetus for us to be seen as knowledgeable and ready to help individuals, families or groups looking for more information or assistance with issues related to the LGBTQ identity.

We like to have fun too! A picnic at Sloan Park in the spring, our bowling league which will kick off the ninth season this fall at Woodleaf Lanes, along with dining at Sweet Meadow Café and Monterrey Mexican Restaurant are favorite social activities for all. Be sure to keep your eyes open for our next Drag Show, which is always a big hit. Check out Sweet Meadow this afternoon at 5 p.m.

You see, what we really discovered on that first Saturday back in 2010 is that there are many voices in the Salisbury LGBTQ community looking for a way to show their pride and to reach out to other segments in our small city with big pride in order to help others, too. Our commitment to Salisbury and the community continues to grow, and we are open to new and better ways to help every person know that are an important part of this community. Please come out and join us!

Beth Meadows is president of Salisbury Pride, a local nonprofit dedicated to building safe, inclusive communities in Rowan County and the surrounding areas with an emphasis on acceptance and valuing individuals of all sexual orientations or gender identities.