The Blue Ridge mountains are about to turn rainbow.
Several Asheville businesses and organizations are celebrating all things Pride, making September Asheville’s unofficial pride month. Pride is usually celebrated across the country in June to commemorate the Stonewall riots, an event credited as the beginning of the gay liberation movement.
“Late September, early October has been the time of year Asheville has done pride,” said Al Murray, director of community engagement and organizational development with the Campaign for Southern Equality. “It’s just so stinkin’ hot in June.”
To kick things off, Wicked Weed has collaborated with CSE to release a new beer called “Y’All Means Ale” on Sept. 12. A dollar from each pour benefits the Asheville based not-for-profit.
“We are making sure that your zip code doesn’t determine your rights,” Murray said. “Making sure that who you love, no matter your gender or sexual identity, that you live a life that is a life of full equality.”
Based in Asheville, CSE provides many resources for LGBTQ+ across the South, including legal and medical services.
“We try to pick non-profits that really reflect the values of Wicked Weed and our employees,” said Rachel Dudasik, community engagement coordinator of Wicked Weed.
The limited-edition ale’s recipe was created by one of Wicked Weed’s founders, Jessica Dickinson. In theme with pride and it
s flag, the ale’s ingredients coincide with the colors of the rainbow.
“There’s red rosehips, orange zest for orange, for yellow we have honey, green we have some green tea leaves, blue Kenyan basil, indigo is black currants, and then we have some chargrilled plums,” said Dudasik. “It’s a part of the company that we don’t necessarily get to show the rest of our community very often, so it’s really fun when we get to say ‘This is a pretty cool world that we’re in, come join.’”
The Y’all Means Ale will also be featured during Wicked Weed’s Pridetoberfest, happening on Sept. 28. This event will be thrown in collaboration with Blue Ridge Pride festival.
Blue Ridge Pride Center, an organization with many LGBTQ+ friendly events throughout the year, can be best known for spearheading the Pride festival in Asheville. They have recently added a procession element to their festival format.
“For most of our history, we focused largely on an annual festival,” said Tina White, executive director of the Blue Ridge Pride Center. “Last year, we expanded to add the Welcoming WNC Procession. We wanted to add a stronger emphasis on social justice without taking away from the fun of the festival. We designed the procession to focus on a positive message. Too often, we hear from haters. We wanted to give voice to the silent majority: the welcomers in Western NC.”
Lack of funding has been an issue for Blue Ridge Pride, even though according to the 2016 U.S. Census Asheville has 83 percent more gay and lesbian residents than an average American city.
“In a parade you block the streets from point a to point b and those blocks are basically yours for that period of time,” said Perry Martino, director of the Blue Ridge procession. “Because Blue Ridge pride doesn’t have the financial backing to do a full parade for what it costs to block off all the streets, a procession is smaller scale and your basically blocking each street at a time. It was the only way we could add a component to feel like regular cities where they have a parade.”
Blue Ridge Pride threw their first pride festival in 2009. The organization runs entirely on volunteers. This year’s festival theme will be Welcoming WNC.
“Its very collaborative, very inclusive, very community minded,” said Nancy Sue, entertainment director of Blue Ridge Pride festival. “Its not just inclusive to the gay community, its inclusive to everybody.”
The festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Pack Square park. Aside from the procession, there will be two stages featuring local singer-songwriters as well as other music. Attendees can also expect a drag show which allows contestants of all ages to enter.
“Asheville is such a wealth of talented people,” Sue said. “It boggles my mind.”
Scandals, a LGBTQ+ friendly nightclub is hosting the official Blue Ridge Pride festival after-party.
There are no shortages of celebrations this month. The Orange Peel hosts an event supporting transgender youth on Sept. 14. The yarn emporium hosts a Rainbow-ify for Pride Yarn Bombing on Sep. 25. Asheville Pizza and Brewing will be showing a pride edition of Rocky Horror Picture Show on Sept. 27. The Block off Biltmore will be hosting an LGBTQ story slam on Sept. 27.
“I do have one plea, I would appreciate any help in encouraging people to volunteer at the festival. We could use some,” White said.
Interested volunteers can sign up on the Blue Ridge Pride homepage.