County holding first gay pride event
That's what members of the Catawba Valley Pride Inc. say about Catawba County's upcoming gay pride event, the first held in the county.
The event is scheduled for Oct. 15-17 at various locations across the county, from Lenoir-Rhyne University to area churches.
"I have gotten many e-mails with people saying, 'It's time, and we're wishing you the best in turnout,'" said Christy Austin, Catawba Valley Pride president. "We're really excited for this event."
Catawba Valley Pride Inc., a nonprofit organization, was started in June when Austin and other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community members met to discuss the possibility of a gay pride event.
"We didn't know where to go, or what to do," Austin said of the event's infant stages.
One thing they did know, however, was that there was a desire for a pride event in the community. About 75 people attended the event, and planning was under way several months later.
The event starts Friday with a seminar at Lenoir-Rhyne University from 5-6:30 p.m. called "Out in the South." Several scholars will speak at the seminar about the effects of being a member of the LGBT community in a rual area. There will be an opportunity to ask questions after the seminar.
"We've strived to plan a plethora of events so the partier can go, the church-goer can go, and the family can go," Austin said.
On Saturday, there will be a family picnic at Unifour Christian Fellowship Church in Newton, complete with entertainment and other vendors.
"Some people are worried it's going to be people running around in G-strings and making out in the back of the church," Austin said. "It's not going to be like that. This is a rated-G picnic."
Other events throughout the weekend include a youth dance at the Quality Inn and Suites in Hickory, performances at Club Cabaret in Hickory and Sunday-morning worship services at area gay-affirming churches.
Ed Farthing, 63, of Hickory, spent four years advocating for the LGBT community through the Equality NC organization. He attended gay pride events across the country, and now it's time for him to enjoy a pride celebration within his county.
"I knew it would happen. I just didn't know it would happen in my lifetime," he said.
Farthing has been openly gay for 20 years, and he said he hopes the event raises awareness of the LBGT members in the community.
"There's a huge gay population in Hickory, and it will only surprise people that don't pay attention," he said. "We're in every nationality, every profession, every ethnicity."
Ashley Massey, 24, of Hickory, met her girlfriend of five years at Lenoir-Rhyne University. Massey now works at the university, and she said she's excited to have a gay pride event close to home.
"I want (the event) to open people's eyes," she said. "If they aren't part of the (LGBT) community, then they are surprised."
Austin estimated the event would cost the organization from $5,000 to $8,000, but because of community support, Catawba Valley Pride spent about $1,500.
"People have just bent over backward giving us restaurants and materials that we need," Austin said.
Support for the event, however, hasn't stopped Catawba Valley Pride from hiring local off-duty police officers to keep peace at the event, if necessary.
"We are not so naive to expect that there won't be naysayers there," Austin said.
According to The Observer News Enterprise's online poll, 77 percent of responders believe Catawba County should not have a gay pride event.
This weekend's event, however, is not only for the LGBT community.
"It's about the heterosexual (community) as well, because we are all equal, and we all want the same equality. We all want to be treated the same," Austin said.
If Catawba Valley Pride Inc. has its way, those desires will translate into an organization and an event that continues long after this weekend's celebration ends.
"This is not going to be a one-time show," Austin said. "If 10 people turn out and have a good time, it's a success."
For more information about Catawba Valley Pride Inc. and the upcoming gay pride event, visit www.catawbavalleypride.org.