Our Programs and Projects
Blue Ridge Pride traces its roots back to 2009, when the community banded together to hold its first festival on a public space in Martin Luther King Park. For the next ten years, the organization focused on two annual events: the Blue Ridge Pride Festival and the Miss Blue Ridge Pride Pageant. In 2018, the board voted to expand our mission, programs and geographic reach.
While the festival remains core to our mission, we have expanded into many new types of events. Public events play a crucial role in society. They can unite or segregate. They can foster confrontation or encourage reconciliation. We believe that, as the world grows smaller, it is critical that we learn to share space together gracefully. We seek to create shared spaces that are welcoming to all. We seek to foster dialogues that are honest and challenging, but respectful and constructive. It’s a fine line to walk, but we believe that it is worth the effort.
- Blue Ridge Pride Festival – Our annual, family-friendly fall celebration of WNC’s LGBTQ community and our wonderful allies. It attracts 14,000 to 18,000 people.
- Welcoming WNC Procession – A parade of people rather than floats. We walk to give voice and visibility to all who aspire to a western North Carolina that is welcoming and equitable to all.
- Movies & Mixer Series – A summer film series coupled with a community mixer.
- LGBTQ Story Slam – Community members and allies share their most personal experiences.
- MX Pride Pageant – Showcases people who explore and express gendered identity in all its wonderful forms.
- Event Partnerships and Collaborations – We are working with other events, organizations, and communities in an effort to break down needless barriers.
Virtual Community Center
This year, we are launching what we believe to be the first 100% virtual LGBTQ center in the country. We hope that it becomes a model for other rural communities. Some of things it will feature in its first release:
- Welcoming Calendar – A searchable calendar of events, meetings, seminars, and entertainment that target and/or welcome our community;
- Welcoming Directories – Directories of welcoming service providers, support groups, social groups, employers, and organizations;
- Welcoming Speakers – A catalog of locally available seminars and speakers that address issues of importance to our community and allies;
- Welcoming Communities – Pages devoted to building a more welcoming WNC: Welcoming Faith, Welcoming Schools, Welcoming Sports, Welcoming Healthcare, Welcoming Workplaces.
Our goal is to keep this resource free to the community. We want groups and non-profit service providers to be able to post their information without worrying about cost.
Community Partner Fund
In 2019, we launched the Blue Ridge Pride Community Partnership Fund. All funds are set aside for local groups that demonstrably support western North Carolina’s LGBTQ and allied communities In our first year, we gave out $7,500 in grants. The goal of the fund is threefold:
- Make it easy for qualifying organizations – especially small ones – to apply for financial support.
- Make it easy for local donors to support a greater variety of local groups and services.
- Create a sense of shared community and a greater awareness of all the groups that support it.
We maintain a public posting of grants awarded. We are starting small, but we hope to see this program grow considerably. Local organizations have found creative ways to support this program. Green Man Brewery committed all profits from one of its brands, LUV ALL, to the fund. The Aloft Asheville Downtown and Fine Arts Theatre collaborated to support the fund through the Movie and Mixer Series. This is the sort of coming together that we dream of.
We have started with a single project. However, we are exploring other collaborations, such as a Safe Public Spaces project with area businesses. We are also collaborating with Campaign for Southern Equality to support our local community of queer artists.