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Big Sky Pride celebration in works for Billings’ North Park

April 28, 2017 GMT

Standing in North Park on Monday under a canopy of cottonwoods and flowering crab apple trees, three community organizers envisioned how it will look in June.

As many as 5,000 people will be in the park on June 17 to play games, ride the inflatable slide, take in the drag show, witness or participate in a mass wedding, or enjoy a locally brewed beer.

It’s been nine years since the annual Big Sky Pride celebration has been held in Billings, and organizers are ready to make it a big, family-friendly celebration.

Organizer Shauna Goubeaux said the LGBT community has much to celebrate, including marriage equality. Like many others in the community, she and her partner are now married and have a 4-year-old son. It’s time to celebrate with family and allies.

“All of the advancements that have come to our community were made because of our allies. We’re 10 percent of the population and we need and appreciate those allies,” Goubeaux said.

The celebration is June 16-18. But first, one little detail — they need to raise $20,000.

A series of fundraisers begins with the Drag & Dine show at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 29, at the Pub Station. For $15 a person or $25 a couple, you can watch drag queens from Magic City Glamour perform music and enjoy a pasta bar and dessert.

Aaron Mehrens-Wallace, one of the featured performers in the show, promises a fun night.

“Drag shows are very interactive. The audience will get a chance to interact as much as the performers. Everybody has fun,” Wallace said.

Other fundraisers include a dinner and silent auction at Pizza Ranch from 5 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 3, and a “Star Wars”-themed roller skating party at Skate World from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 4.

Kim Harris hopes Billings will get behind the fundraisers and take part in the Pride celebration, which kicks off with a parade in downtown Billings and culminates with the free festival North Park.

Rainbow banners will fly in the parking lot of the First Interstate Bank center across the street from the park and organizers are requesting the city to declare June 17 Pride Day in Billings. More than a dozen members of the Billings faith community will help with the mass wedding at the festival.

Even if you’re straight, attending Pride events helps show your support. Pride celebrations promote understanding and unity and help dissolve stereotypes.

Organizations such as Tumbleweed Runaway Program work with LGBT teenagers who struggle to find their place in the world. Some are bullied at school or don’t feel welcome in their own homes. A Pride event helps show them they are not alone, Goubeaux said.

“We are fortunate to live in a large community like Billings, but in the small towns, you can be the only gay person in town. Pride knocks down the stereotypes,” she said.

June is National LGBT Pride Month and hundreds of celebrations are being held all over the country.

Harris, a strong ally of the LGBT community, said inclusive events like this one bring the community together, sending a message of inclusiveness and acceptance.

“It educates the community,” she said.