HELENA – Saturday morning brought stormy weather in Helena, but that wasn’t enough to keep people from celebrating Big Sky Pride.
“We may not be seeing rainbows in the sky, but we’ve seen rainbows all across the city today,” said Gov. Steve Bullock.
Big Sky Pride organizers expect several thousand people to take part in the weekend-long celebrations.
“Considering it was pouring rain and really cold, I’m ecstatic with how many people came out,” said Big Sky Pride president Kev Hamm. “It was awesome.”
Saturday’s festivities began with a parade through downtown Helena. People and organizations from around Montana marched down Last Chance Gulch in celebration of the state’s LGBT community.
Siblings Lucas and Serena Palmer came from Great Falls and Missoula, respectively, to take part in the event.
“People were on the sides of the streets, clapping, cheering,” Lucas Palmer said. “It was honestly the most amazing feeling in the entire world.”
Following the parade was a rally in Pioneer Park. Attendees heard from leaders like Bullock and Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins.
“It doesn’t matter who we are, who we love, or what we look like – we all deserve respect and decency,” said Collins.
This is the 25th anniversary of the first Big Sky Pride event, held in 1993 in Helena. State Sen. Diane Sands of Missoula helped found the event, and remembered it initially met with harsh opposition from some in the community.
“We had rocks thrown at us and eggs thrown at us,” she said. “It was a very different environment.”
This year, businesses around Helena put up rainbow-colored decorations to show their support. Many of them will host Pride events throughout the weekend.
“We coordinate with a bunch of businesses that we know are going to be welcoming, and we get a bunch of stuff set up,” Hamm said. “What’s amazing is we have so many other businesses that have just stepped up and said, ‘Hey, we want to do something too.’”
Those who attended Saturday’s events said that feeling of support makes a big difference.
“I think especially in Montana, these events are super important, to just feel that community and show support,” said Serena Palmer.
Big Sky Pride events will continue in Helena through Sunday. You can find a full schedule here.