Big Sky Pride transformed Billings into an epicenter of glitter, rainbows, music and solidarity between LGBTQI+-identifying folks and straight allies over the weekend.
Michelle and Kyle Brenner of Livingston along with their kids, Kalista and Kaden, were among at least several hundred who marched in the parade Saturday morning.
“We thought we’d come out because we’re—we’re family and this is my daughter and she’s gay and we wanted to support the Pride parade and this is the first one we’ve ever been in," said Brenner.
14-year-old Kalista Brenner was all smiles as she marched between her mom and brother.
“It’s very cool, I feel like I can relate to a lot of the people here. It’s just – it’s very friendly and happy," said Brenner.
The hour-long parade was made up of members of the LGBTQI+ community, their families and other supporters.
Mikel Anderson and Karissa Gordon of Billings were among the hundreds of onlookers watching the parade. They’re in a relationship and they both identify as straight.
“They’re just the same as us so we’re here to celebrate that," said Anderson.
Yea, it aligns with what I jive with," said Gordon. "Love is love is love. I think it’s fantastic that a more conservative town like Billings can have this kind of support.”
The parade also featured organizations like the PFLAG, Montana Human Rights Network and Planned Parenthood, along with drag queens in vintage cars, lesbians on motorcycles, toddlers on bikes and church organizations, declaring on enormous rainbow signage, “God’s doors are open to everyone.”
The parade ended on the steps of the James F. Battin Federal Courthouse where the crowd gathered for a rally.
Governor Steve Bullock and U.S. Senator Jon Tester did not attend, but sent messages of support that were read to the crowd. Numerous other elected officials or candidates spoke, too. As did representatives from various organizations, including Ella Smith with the state’s Pride Foundation.
“I was born here in Montana and when I came back after college I was a little nervous about where—whether or not I was going to be able to have a good career, whether or not I could find love and acceptance here," Smith said to the crowd.
"And what I learned quickly when I came was that the first step was loving myself and coming out and feeling proud of who I am.”
The parade and rally were among some 40 activities planned over the long weekend. YPR did not observe any protestors between Friday and Sunday.