Organizers of this year's Montana Gay Pride Celebration in Kalispell say they haven't seen any of the resistance that marked the lead-up to last year's event, and the relative quiet may alleviate a chilling effect that hung over the 2009 festivities.
"I think people are less afraid this year than they were last year," says Pride organizer Dee Boyce. "Last year they were hemming and hawing. They were a little bit afraid."
In the weeks leading up to the 2009 event, roughly 200 local residents submitted a petition to Kalispell city officials requesting they prohibit the annual Gay Pride parade, which rotates across the state and was being held for the first time in the city. One individual complained to the Kalispell City Council that such displays promote immorality, while opening the door to parades for rapists and pedophiles.
"Gay people cannot procreate. They recruit, and they don't need to parade down Main Street flaunting their lifestyle," Charles Reed told Kalispell's City Council last April.
Despite efforts to shut it down, the event drew hundreds of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from across the state. And though some opponents protested on the sidelines, the parade went off without a hitch.
This year's gathering, dubbed "Under the Rainbow," will feature the traditional march on Saturday down Main Street led by Eureka-born anthropologist and author Dawn Prince-Hughes. All other events will be held at the Flathead County Fairgrounds, with singer-songwriter Camille Bloom performing Friday night and the Missoula Gay Men's Chorus appearing Saturday evening prior to a drag show by the Imperial Sovereign Court of the State of Montana.
Just to be cautious, organizers are offering a safety workshop Friday to prepare Pride attendees for potential conflict.
Kalispell Mayor Tammi Fisher says police will be on hand, as they are for all public events.
"I haven't heard anything, frankly," says Fisher of this year's event. "I'm cautiously optimistic that it will again be a peaceful celebration."