HELENA — Starting with Drag Brunch at Maison and ending with a parade that encompasses the walking mall and 'Bears and Brews' at the Rialto Bar, Big Sky Pride is making its return July 11-17.
After losing last year to the pandemic, Big Sky Pride's president Kev Hamm told MTN the fact that they're able to get the event off the ground this year is incredible and he hopes people are able to join in on the fun.
"We welcome everybody to this, it's going to be a great time, Friday night with the street dance -- the drag show, literally right there filling the street," said Hamm as he pointed to the southern end of the Walking Mall in downtown Helena. "Last time when we had it two years ago, we had about 6000 people right in the area where we're standing, which is a lot of people. And it was awesome.”
With Governor Greg Gianforte lifting the pandemic state-of-emergency to open the month of July (this interview was done before the Governor's order), it's unlikely that new restrictions will go into place before Big Sky Pride makes its return. However, Hamm said part of the planning process was ensuring that if local health organizations or Big Sky Pride thought the event could cause pandemic-related harm, they have a way to stop the celebration at a moment's notice.
"It's always weird to go, we're going to try to put on this event. It's a pandemic. There's no good answer," said Hamm. "But I got my core group of people that helped with making sure that all the events happen, and we discussed it. And we thought, well, as long as new restrictions don't kick into place, this is what we'd like to do. And we made all of our plans with the if restrictions kick into place, we will cancel."
Despite strides being made towards a return to normalcy, Hamm noted there are likely going to be some people who aren't ready just yet to join in with the crowds across Pride's many events, and BSP will have an online platform for those who don't feel quite comfortable just yet.
"The biggest thing is, in putting together an event where you're going to bring everybody together at the end of a pandemic, or what looks like the end of a pandemic -- We're working very hard to make sure that everybody is safe. So we are doing things that are for those of you who don't feel safe and cannot be here. We will be streaming, the parade will be streamed, the rally will be streamed, the comedy show will be streamed, and the drag brunch will be streamed and drag trivia will be streamed," said Hamm. "There are ways for you to participate that don't require you to be here."
The week-long celebration will feature several different events like a treasure hunt hosted by the Prickly Pear Land Trust, the Perfectly Queer comedy show at the Holter Museum, and the Big Sky Pride Parade that will span from the Steamboat block to Anchor Park on Saturday morning.
Many businesses have offered their spaces and support to help Big Sky Pride grow to what it is now and what it could be, but Hamm noted it wasn't always like this, and the recent changes to the community's landscape have been nothing short of incredible.
"Since 2018, when we first did our pride here. Helena has fought to keep us here. The businesses have always been, 'What can we do next year? How can we make it bigger? How can we make it better? Thank you for doing this,' and that is astounding to me because I grew up here. And as a kid, like I wasn't out. It wasn't safe," said Hamm. "Knowing that now, I get a week where downtown is covered in rainbows for my community, celebrating my community, is a massive, massive change. And that only comes because the community is willing to celebrate us, and that comes from wanting to be a part of the community."