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The official launch of Ark-Valley Pride at Tres Litros Beer Company on Friday, June 2 brought together a community for a night of fun preceding the all-day Pride event Saturday, June 3 at Riverside Park. The atmosphere was fun, friendly, and exceptionally welcoming as the party started to officially launch Pride Month.

Margo and Chad at 2023 Tres Litros Pride launch. Photo by Carly Winchell.

Before arriving, voices could be heard a block down the street from the gathered crowd at Tres Litros. Pride flags were aplenty displayed on tables, hanging from ceilings, and draped over banisters as the community gathered together for snacks and drinks.

People from many different backgrounds came together to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community. To demonstrate the theme of “We’re here. We’re Queer. We’re rural,” many attendees wore rainbow accessories like feathered earrings, knee-high stockings, and a shirt that read “familia” in rainbow letters.

The entire crowd was friendly and welcoming. One attendee passed this reporter a sticker that read “You are beautiful.” Another attendee, Velvet, shook hands and welcomed this reporter with a smile.

Partnership for Community Action Director of Policy and Programming Jimmy Sellars organized the event and could be seen chatting with attendees between grabbing more supplies to make sure the event ran smoothly. Sellars’ husband Mark Monroe (Margo for the evening) greeted guests with a friendly smile in a dazzling outfit. This is the seventh Ark-Valley Pride celebration that the pair have organized together.

Commissioner Keith Baker was in attendance, easily mingling with the gathered crowd. Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell took the stage later in the evening to remind everyone gathered to check their voter registration and highlight the importance of voting, especially in the current political climate.

Mitchell’s partner Tanya Wait with Chaffee County Public Health spoke about what to expect from Ark-Valley Pride’s first Itty Bitty Health Fair from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday, June 3. The Health Fair will include STI testing and Monkey Pox vaccines as well as supplies such as condoms. The fair features a growing list of health services, tests, and resources designed for community members to stop in and obtain.

Queen Margo and King Chad emceed the event, which featured a lip-sync battle of volunteers from the audience and a round of queer trivia with Drag Brunch tickets as the prize. Several of the performers who will be featured in the drag shows this weekend joined the lip-sync battle incognito to give everyone a little preview of the entertainment to come.

At the end of the night, Margo recalled the way everyone would howl at 8:00 p.m. during the pandemic to bring communities together. To close out the launch event, the entire crowd howled to show Salida the power and love of this community.

According to the Ark-Valley Pride website, this year’s celebration will cost approximately $10,000. To help contribute and support this community, supporters can head here and select a donation tier. Contributions will cover expenses for the event, activities, and promotion, while also funding programs that benefit the entire community.

Final contestants take the stage for the lip-sync battle. Photo by Carly Winchell

More events are scheduled throughout the weekend with the bulk of activities occurring Saturday, June 3:

Ark Valley Pride

All day Saturday, June 3 at the corner of Sackett Ave. and F Street, Salida, CO

Head to Riverside Park to join in this year’s gathering of the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies. Dogs are not allowed in the park, so any canine companions should be left at home. Events include the following:

Pride Village

10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Saturday, June 3

Pride Village in Riverside Park offers various community organizations sharing information, resources, and activities. Activities are family-friendly and include the Pride Village Stage, Button Making, Face Painting, Drag Camp, T-shirt/Poster Printing, and more.

Itty Bitty LGBTQ+ Health Fair

10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday, June 3

You can now find the Itty Bitty LGBTQ+ Health Fair at Ark Valley Pride. This is a growing list of health services, tests, and resources. Drop by to check out all the services offered.

Youth Pride Presentation & Awards

10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, June 3

Celebrate our area youth with awards, activities, and performances on the Main Stage.

Purple People Powered Pride Parade

2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the corner of Fourth and F Streets.

Participants will meet at Alpine Park to zhush up for the parade. The parade will begin promptly at 3:05 p.m.

Dance Party

3:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. Saturday, June 3

Carry on the momentum from the Purple People Pride Parade by enjoying a dance party featuring a DJ at Riverside Park leading into the presentation and awards.

Pride Presentation & Awards

4:15 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 3 at the Main Stage

Local leaders and community members will share stories, perspectives, and celebrate the community through the annual Ark Valley Pride Awards.

Drag Show in the Park

7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, June 3

A drag extravaganza hosted by Emcee Chad that includes a cast of Colorado’s favorite Drag King and Queens including a few local favorites. Bring cash to tip the cast.

21 and Older Drag Brunch

11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Sunday, June 4 at 419 D Street, Salida, CO

The closing festivity of Ark Valley Pride is the Drag Brunch hosted at A CHURCH in Salida. This brunch-style show will host six drag performers and include festive drinks and food. You must be 21 or older to purchase tickets.  Remaining tickets begin at $25 for standard seating to $35 for VIP Seating in the Chapel.

*At the time of the pride launch event there were only about 20 tickets left for the brunch, so be sure to try to get them before they’re gone if you wish to attend this event. Tickets can be acquired here.