Salisbury's annual Pride Festival proves change can happen

Even in the most unlikely places:

Salisbury Pride President Beth Meadows said that this year’s Pride Festival was uneventful. Uneventful in that the crowds of attendees were large, the groups of protesters slim and the environment warm and welcoming for all, she said.

For the festival, now in its eighth year, things haven’t always been smooth sailing. Many protested the event and raised concerns after its first occurrence in 2011. Debate arose afterward about whether the event would be able to continue. “We were just going to do one year. We expected 500 people to show up. Then 2,500 people showed up,” said Meadows. “We saw how much we really needed this in the community. … It’s a passion of mine now that we have to continue to make it better every year.”

While it's fantastic to see the huge turnouts in metro areas like Raleigh and Charlotte, it takes an incredible amount of courage to do this in smaller cities and towns. And getting support from local government officials may be the key to jumping the hurdles put in place by those who don't want to stir the pot:

People like then-mayor pro tem Maggie Blackwell helped Salisbury Pride in its effort to return the festival to East Fisher and South Lee streets each year. On behalf of Pride, Blackwell met with the police and fire departments, city agencies, employees and fellow council members.

Blackwell was honored for her efforts during Saturday’s activities with the Ralph Ketner Ally Award.

“She made sure that they understood that we had personal rights and we had freedoms that we needed to be able to express, just like anybody else did,” said Meadows. “She changed hearts and minds to make sure that today, in 2018, we’re still here celebrating Salisbury Pride.”