Three years into Orange City Pride, this LGBTQ community in northwest Iowa has already endured a book-burning, picketers, brazen Republican-led attacks on those being open about being LGBTQ, the need to change venues, an ad campaign against it,and veiled condemnation from the head of the local Christian college.
But Orange City Pride has also earned a beloved award honoring its LGBTQ+ leadership, increased support from even conservative residents who are honoring the third annual Pride celebration, a welcoming venue to which it relocated its Sunday brunch, and justice served to the book-burner in the form of a court ruling and fine.
And now, Orange City Pride is facing the joyous challenge of transitioning from a tiny little Pride celebration, to one with strong momentum to grow. Last year, the October event drew 200; this year, who knows, says organizer Mike Goll.
“People have been really encouraging and kind and lovely,” he said. “If anything, what we’re seeing is that because of all of this, even conservative people have reached out and said these other groups aren’t showing Christ’s love and aren’t being loving in general.”
This year’s event features three days of celebration.
While Goll and organizers are looking forward to the event, they have also experienced regular challenges since they began the historic event three years ago:
• A few weeks ago, the Sioux County Republican Party posted a comment on Facebook raising religious objections to the upcoming Pride celebration.
• Within the past month, the president of Northwestern College, a Christian liberal arts college in town, released a statement bemoaning the collapse of society as evidenced by the increased acceptance of homosexuality.
• In September, the Four Brothers restaurant in Sioux Center asked the group to find another venue for its Sunday Pride brunch after it was assailed with objections from religious residents. Orange City Pride handled the controversy by graciously agreeing to move – and soon found the LeMars branch of the very same restaurant offering its larger space for the brunch.
• A year ago, a religious activist made a show of burning library books from the county library’s shelves that were LGBTQ-affirming. Paul Dorr was charged with fifth-degree criminal mischief and fined a total of about $150.
• In February 2018, a group of religious leaders took out ads in the local newspaper encouraging the local library to segregate LGBTQ-affirming books.
Orange City Pride also received the Donna Red Wing Advocate of the Year Award from One Iowa, the state’s LGBTQ rights advocacy group, in April.
Goll has some encouraging tips for others coordinating Pride events, especially in small towns:
• You don’t have to have a big or glamorous event to have a successful Pride; a picnic is just as worthwhile as a parade or multi-day affair, Goll says. “We’ve been given the honor of accommodating more people. Not everyone needs to do that,” he said.
• Stay focused on your community’s needs, even if you get media attention or support, he said. “In this state and nationally, we have a lot of privilege and wealth at our disposal. But there are so many little towns that don’t.”
• Recognize your community’s diversity, and that many people don’t have money or resources to devote to Pride. “It’s not just any one type of person. It needs to be everyone’s Pride. Have room at the table.”
• Respect other people’s beliefs, but keep the goal in mind: to celebrate. “We have people that may not understand what queer culture is. They may ask us to acclimate more to the ‘town’ culture. We have to say, this may not be for everyone.”
Find the full weekend schedule at OC Pride’s Facebook page.