Thousands of members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities both locally and nationally will converge in Asheville on Saturday, Oct. 11, to take part in Asheville Pridefest, says organizer Kali Brewer. But while the free event—themed “Live! Love! Be!”—is part party and celebration, the third-annual Pridefest also has a higher purpose in mind.
On a practical level, “It’s an opportunity to bring the GLBT community together and meet each other and network,” says Brewer, who anticipates at least 3,000 attendees. Those coming aren’t just from Asheville, but New York City, Florida, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Illinois and points in between. There’s also an international group, Support for Lesbians Coming Out, that plans to coincide their annual meeting with Pridefest this year, she adds, “because it was a good, positive way to experience coming out in a community in a public way that was safe.”
“Our pride festivals have always been nonconfrontational,” Brewer says—but not always confrontation-free. Though it’s exceedingly rare, there are the occasional protests. Laughing, Brewer recalls that one year a protester snuck into the festival with a bullhorn during a rock performance only to be overwhelmed, peacefully, by the crowd. “Before he could get two words out, they just started singing and the noise drowned him out. And then it took security only about 15 seconds to have him out of the building.”
If anything, one of the purposes of Pridefest is to build bridges between the GLBT community and heterosexual neighbors. And it appears to be working: “Believe it or not, about a third of my volunteers this year are hetero,” she says. “It’s amazing. I’ve had my eyes opened this year by the hetero people that have come out and said, ‘We support you guys, what can we do?’ They have given us financial support, feet-on-the-ground support. In fact, there is a hetero minister that has put up half of my posters in town.”
Pridefest will take place from noon to 6 p.m. at Scandals nightclub at 11 Grove Street downtown. The event will feature food, drink, speakers and a wide array of entertainment. For more information, visit www.ashevillepride.org.