Eons ago, I was a local organizer for Pagan Pride Day in Conway, Arkansas. I did this job for two years in a row before making my way out of the area. While this was only a two-year stint as an organizer, I learned a lot and gained amazing insights that I will share with you today.
Starting a Pagan Pride Day is not an easy feat and it cannot be done alone. You will need a team of volunteers and passionate people that can help create and execute your vision. You need financial sense, you must be flexible and willing to change plans at any moment, and most importantly, you have to be a politician.
I was blessed with an amazing group of Pagan folks whom I had connected with the year prior via Pagan Meet-ups. The idea to host a Pagan Pride Day is rather common in Pagan groups. Just ask someone you know in your local area about a Pagan Pride Day and you will more than likely hear one of two comments, 1) “Oh, I’ve always thought about having one.” Or 2) “Oh, that would never work here.” When I asked the members of the group, I saw both of these reactions. Events for “fringe” groups are rather difficult to make work, especially in small communities or in places that are overly Christian. It can feel like an impossible task, but that mindset cannot be present. If you look to the future and see that your event will fail, then it will. You will not put in the energy and passion you need to make it happen.
Once we had our band of unlikely heroes, it was time to get to work. We started with the basics. We created a website, a new email specific to the event, a Facebook page, a Twitter, and used our individual media channels to begin advertising the event. Following this, politics had to begin. We started with the easy part: vendors. Merchants are always looking for places to sell their wares and we were able to start securing individuals from all over the area to be present. Then the hard part of politics was working with the local government to allow us to have a large Pagan event. This was not the easiest situation. Under certain codes we were unable to have vendors, other codes did not allow us to have people park in certain parking lots, making most of the guests have to cross a busy street to access the event. We finally found the perfect place. The downtown square had a pavilion, a parking lot, and a modestly sized lawn.
Now that we had the location set we were able to do the fun stuff. We created signs and merchandise, and started to recruit speakers and entertainers. Our first entertainer was a local celebrity, musician S.J. Tucker. She was a lovely soul who wanted to be our main event and she did not disappoint. We also needed a speaker who had some buzz. We reached out to Pagan Youtuber, CuteWitch772. She was ecstatic to help out.
Months went by. Then it was the day before the event and it was honestly extremely nerve-wracking. We had to make sure that our volunteers were trained to expect protestors and how the protestors should be addressed. While we, of course, knew to just keep a smile on our faces, we do know that everyone has their limits. (While we did have a few protestors, all in all everything went on rather well!)
The morning of the event we had to show up early to set up an audio system, corral the vendors, and set up the marketing so that everything was social media-ready.
Our event lasted for five hours in total from the beginning to the end ritual. (Yes, a public ritual in the downtown of a small town in Arkansas). It was absolutely … magickal.
If you are thinking of hosting a Pagan Pride Day in your local community, I completely support it! Know that it takes work and it is important to be flexible. Stay tuned for future posts in this series, with a How-To guide on hosting a Pagan Pride Day.
[Written by Sheldon Slinkard.]