Casper Pride arrives at David Street Station | New
When Casper Pride was born six years ago, it was not an event that was part of the community. He was relegated to a park and hidden away. There were only a few vendors, and if the association received a cash donation, it was common for people to ask for anonymity.
But 2021 Casper Pride has been completely redesigned – this year’s pride theme. Hours later, more than 600 people were present at David Street Station, according to Casper Pride President Mallory Pollock. Over 20 vendors participated, and to top it off; Clean Slate Body Art Studio sponsored the event.
The move to David Street Station was no accident. Pollock wants the LGBTQ community to be seen and wants to integrate into the Casper community.
And make no mistake about it. Casper Pride is a legitimate event with visitors from all over. Children, tweens, teens, families and allies filled the space. And the artists and vendors were ready to engage with everyone. Pollock had only one word for Saturday’s event: “Savage.”
“The number of young people this year is exceptional,” Pollock said. “They came out in force and the families are there. We have a few stands here specifically geared towards families to help them navigate certain aspects of family life. “
The period leading up to Pride was a good indicator of the degree of acceptance and occupation of Casper Pride. Pollock has received messages from people in neighboring states, as well as residents of Florida and New Jersey.
“You just think, you do your own little thing, and then all of a sudden other people notice it,” she said. “Yeah, the outside support has been great. “
Leo and Nikki Davis, a married couple of seven and nomads living in a motorhome, have ties to Casper and were in the car.
Leo, from Venezuela, and Nikki, from northern Wyoming, were planning to visit family and friends, but decided to drop by Pride after hearing about it.
“It’s the youth,” Leo said. “I think that’s why I feel so emotionally empowered today. They already know who they are and they are proud to show their flag. I wish I had had this back then, but (today) fills me with pride and excitement.
Josh and Stephanie McConkey, residents of Casper, noticed the activity and support during Pride Week. But they were still “pleasantly surprised” by Saturday’s turnout.
Stéphanie was enthusiastic about the city’s support and the various activities during Pride Week.
“I think it’s cool that the kids adjust to it earlier,” Josh said, pointing to his 11-year-old daughter. “She’s on board. His friends are on board, and it should be open.
Representatives from Juntos, a Cheyenne-based immigrant advocacy and immigrant rights organization, Sheridan Supports LGBTQ +, Black Hills Center for Equality in Rapid City, South Dakota, were delighted to see the community come together. join in solidarity.
“This is the first Casper Pride event I’ve been to, and it’s amazing,” said Juntos volunteer and member coordinator Johnathon Musgrove. “I have never seen such a grand Wyoming pride event.”
Musgrove hopes to see a similarly sized crowd for Pride in the Park in Cheyenne, but he also recognizes that the event is out of sight and not part of the community.
“I think the problem in Cheyenne could be that a lot of people are going to Fort Collins or Denver to do something. In Casper, it’s a bit more central in Wyoming, so anyone who isn’t that close to Colorado can come here for that.
Juntos is hoping to rebuild his network of supporters after COVID-19 stifled the progress made by the nonprofit in 2019.
Tehn Forte, vice president of Sheridan Supports LGBTQ +, has driven south to Casper Pride for three years now and loves the local community.
“I love seeing all the young kids,” Forte said. “I couldn’t go out at this age, so it’s always good that they feel comfortable being themselves.”
Sheridan recently hosted its second annual Pride Day last weekend with good turnout and substantial youth representation, Forte said. And the community slowly and hesitantly began to recognize the LGBTQ community.
“It’s a different area, but we’re over there – to discuss why we’re here,” they said.
For Alexis Novotny, the chair of the board of directors of the Black Hills Center For Equality, who grew up in Casper and moved in the late ’90s, noticed the city’s progress with Pride and decided to drop her stand, with the vice-president, Toni Diamant.
“It was a very eye-opening experience to see so much of the community come together,” said Diamond. “There are so many people portrayed and so many random acts of kindness over the two days that I’m here. It has been incredible.
Novotny remembers being afraid to express himself in his youth to Casper – the derogatory words and frowning. But now she thinks how far Casper has come in just six years is incredible.
“(Some) parents stopped by our booth and said to themselves, ‘I’m not quite sure about this, but I’ll learn with you,’” Novotny said. “Being very assertive with their child – it’s amazing to see more of that.”
Diamond was the first transgender person to run for office in Rapid City, and even though she didn’t win, she was still surprised to feel accepted and allowed to run. She sees growth and is excited about the future.
The Future is Queer, the final event on Sunday at Conwell Park at 2 p.m., hopes to enhance the queer experience at Casper, where Pollock hopes to be more present year-round in the future.
“We’re asking everyone to come out and listen to the project managers,” Pollock said. “We want to break up into groups (to solve the key issues about what it’s like to be gay in Casper) and start tackling those issues because we can’t do it alone.”