By Zak Hansen
Las Cruces Bulletin
On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn, located in New York City’s famed Greenwich Village, was the site of the Stonewall Riots, which would historically mark in large part the beginning of the fight for gay rights in the U.S.
More than 40 years later, June is filled with events commemorating the actions taken that day, and the fight continues despite huge advances made around the country and right here in Las Cruces, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Southern New Mexico Pride, a volunteer, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing the GLBT community with a sense of unity through various community events and activities.
For three days this year beginning Friday, June 27, Southern New Mexico Pride will host a series of events and gatherings around town, many of them open to the whole family – whatever family means to you.
This year, the festivities begin at 8 p.m. Friday, June 27, with Drag Bingo, held at the Ramada Las Cruces Hotel and Conference Center, 201 E. University Ave. Tickets are $20.
From 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. that night, also at the Ramada, Southern NM Pride will host an under-21 dance for those in the GLBT community, allies and supporters. Now in its third year, the under-21 dance offers a safe place for teens and those in their early 20s to be out, supported and comfortable in a social setting, and to be a part of the pride celebrations.
On Saturday, June 28, Southern NM Pride holds its signature annual event, the Pride Festival, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Pioneer Women’s Park, 500 W. Las Cruces Ave. As in previous years, the festival will kick off with a parade, which begins this year at Pioneer Women’s Park, heads east on Las Cruces Avenue to Church Street, then south to Griggs Avenue, before winding its way through the Farmers & Crafts Market of Las Cruces, which will be in full swing in its regular location on Main Street Downtown, onward to Water Street, back to Las Cruces Avenue and to its starting point at the park.
Upon the parade’s return, the Pride Festival will kick into high-gear, with live music and entertainment, food, drink, arts and crafts vendors, games for the family and more. The festival, Southern New Mexico Pride’s flagship event, predates even the establishment of a formalized group, and has grown vastly in attendance, going from 15 vendors and about 600 guests in 2006 to 100 vendors and more than 2,000 attendees in 2012.
The pride festival is free, open to the public and provides a safe, family-friendly day in the park for GLBT community members, allies, supporters and the greater community alike.
Continuing into the evening, Southern New Mexico Pride will host the annual Pride Dance for those 21 years of age and older at Graham Central Station, 505 S. Main St., No. 85. Tickets are $10.
On the 2014 Southern New Mexico Pride weeekend’s final day, Sunday, June 29, the Hilton Garden Inn, 2550 S. Don Roser Drive, will be thesite of the Pride Pool Party. The event is reserved for those 21 and older, and tickets are $5.
The history of Southern New Mexico Pride as an organization dates back to June 1990, when a small group of lesbians held a small, close-knit picnic in June to celebrate the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the dawn of the gay rights movement. Later in the 1990s, as the celebration grew, a walking parade was added.
In 2006, the organization took another step forward, working in conjunction with citizens, organizations and businesses to hold a celebration each June, leaving behind its old name – Las Cruces Pride – and adopting Southern New Mexico Pride as its official moniker.
In the 14 years since that first small picnic, the group has grown by leaps and bounds into the year-round, volunteer-run organization it is today. Southern New Mexico Pride produces a number of events each year, including the annual four-day Pride Weekend each June, teaming with local vendors, businesses and community groups, as well as a Halloween ball and dance, a spring drag pageant and a few smaller events.
Southern New Mexico Pride was recognized by Albuquerque Pride in 2008 with the group’s Honored Dignitary-Emerging Leader Award, and just this month, after a two-year process, Southern New Mexico Pride received a letter of designation marking the group a 501©3 nonprofit organization. For more information about Southern New Mexico Pride or any of the Pride weekend events, visit www. southernnmpride.org.
Zak Hansen may be reached at 680-1958 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marchers in the 2013 Southern New Mexico Pride Parade show their support for the GLBT community. This year, the parade leaves Pioneer Women’s Park at 10 a.m. before making its way through the Downtown area.
Photo by Yvette Lopez