This past weekend, volunteers from Spencer Pride attended InterPride Region 4’s conference in Detroit, Michigan. Region 4 includes the following states: Minnesota, North & South Dakota, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, & Indiana.
This was the first InterPride Region 4 Conference in 10 years. As such, there was a lot of anticipation about what could be gained by attending, but there wasn’t much experience knowing how reasonable those hopes were. All the attendees representing Spencer Pride were pleased with the conference & were happy to have participated in the event.
This year’s regional conference was hosted by Motor City Pride. Motor City Pride holds an annual festival in Detroit each year. In 2017, 35,000 people attended their event. Other organizations represented at the event included: Saint Louis Pride, Hotter than July, Twin Cities Pride, Ann Arbor Pride, Indy Pride, & more. Nearly 40 individuals were present at the conference, which took place at the Marriott Renaissance Center. The site is also the international headquarters of General Motors.
The conference officially began Saturday morning, but the 9 representatives from Spencer Pride made the 5 and ½ hour journey on Friday evening. While the car ride was long, it was a great kick-off for the volunteers, who spent that time catching up with one another.
The conference began with a welcome from Dave Wait, InterPride Treasurer & Motor City Pride’s event chair. He then provided an introduction to InterPride. Dot Belstler from Twin Cities Pride then reviewed proposed changes to the structure of InterPride & solicited feedback from those in attendance.
Belstler then presented Developing a Crisis Management Plan for your Festival, which provided a wealth of information about how to establish an effective strategy for ensuring the safety & security of festival attendees.
The rest of the afternoon was structured around a format called “speed topics.” Individuals from several organizations presented information on a given topic & then led a discussion with the entire group to learn best practices among the many pride organizations.
Jonathan Balash, Spencer Pride President, presented Engaging All Ages in Pride Festivals during the speed topics. He described how Spencer Pride isn’t just all-ages & family-friendly, but also family-focused as well. Conference attendees were highly engaged in this topic.
“I was excited that Spencer Pride was able to have such strong representation at this year’s regional conference,” Balash said. “The value of meeting face-to-face with representatives from Pride organizations throughout our region cannot be overstated.”
Balash noted that the best way for attendees to get value out of the event was to know how to ‘scale.’
“We have to listen to the larger organizations & scale down what they say to see how it applies to us. The larger organizations have to listen to smaller organizations, such as ours, & scale it up to apply it to their work. If anyone is unable to ‘scale’ like this, they will miss out on valuable information that is shared.”
Balash also serves as the regional co-director for InterPride’s Region 4 alongside Belstler.
RESPONSE FROM SPENCER PRIDE’S REPRESENTATIVES
Attendees representing Spencer Pride were asked what they expected from the conference & what they actually learned there. Everyone shared a wealth of information & it is apparent that Spencer Pride will gain a lot from having had such a solid representation at the event.
Cathy Wyatt, long-serving director of Spencer Pride (& recently named National PFLAG Great Lakes Regional Director) wanted to learn best practices that would be helpful to Spencer Pride as the festival expands. A discussion on safety & security made the biggest impact on her & she plans to invest more thought on that subject.
“I want to think further on how to make safety & security discreet, but effective,” Wyatt said.
Dylan Heaslet also has a renewed focus on safety after having attended the InterPride regional conference. Dylan is a member of the Spencer Pride Board of Directors.
“I felt that it was an incredibly informative conference where I learned more than I expected,” Dylan said passionately. “The most valuable takeaway I learned is other organizations’ processes of fundraising & generating sponsorships.”
He also saw very practical things that could be applied to our festival right away, such as the integration of a gaming area to help increase engagement of teenagers at our festival in June.
Joy Hellman serves as Youth Coordinator for the Iris Youth Group. She was not sure what to expect from the conference, but she wanted to support the group & spend time bonding with her peers on the Board of Directors. At the conference, she met representatives from Saint Louis’ pride organization. They also have an LGBT center with a youth group. Joy is excited to help build a bridge between Iris and Saint Louis’ youth group.
Joy had several other takeaways from the event, including new ways to generate income, engage with youth at the festival, & more.
Luke Brinson attended the event wanting to understand more about how other, larger Pride events operated. He felt like he learned a lot about Motor City Pride & Twin Cities Pride.
“While some of that information may not be applicable to our own event,” said Brinson, “there are ways we can interpret their strategies to improve our own festival.”
Luke is the Lead of Iris & took notes on how to increase youth engagement at the festival.
“I truly did not know what to expect with the conference,” said Jacob Balash.
Balash is a Spencer Pride Director & serves as the Retail Manager for Unity.
“I am so happy that I was invited. It was a great team-building experience for our volunteers. I look forward to continuing to develop relationships with our Spencer Pride volunteers as well as the other people we met who work so diligently on their own festivals through the Midwest.”
One of the things discussed at the festival was how to integrate more information & support for individuals in domestic violence situations. Jacob has returned to Spencer with a mission to get those materials readily available in the restrooms at the center, where individuals can discreetly take them. Balash was inspired by a discussion led by Ebony Janeen from Saint Louis Pride.
Judi Epp also wants to be sure that we increase our education to help combat domestic violence.
“I went to the conference hoping to share our experiences & learn from what works for other organizations. My expectations were exceeded,“ said Epp.
Besides the efforts related to domestic violence, Epp also learned valuable new information on fundraising & youth engagement.
Kim Fidler has been a member of the Spencer Pride board for 5 years. She was very impressed with the content of the event & the value that everyone gained by participating. She noted a huge list of things that she learned at the event, but the thing that left the strongest impression on her was the discussion on safety.
“I hate that we must consider not just the safety of festival attendees, but also threats such as people driving card into crowds as well as active shooters,” Fidler reluctantly shared. “I am interested in working on a safety plan for the upcoming festival. I believe that people appreciate the fact that we not only promote diversity, educate others, and are proactive with legislation, but that we also want them to have an awesome, SAFE experience at our festival.”
CONCLUDING THE CONFERENCE & LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
The regional conference wrapped up on Sunday morning with a brunch & closing discussion. Jonathan Balash, as co-director of the region, led those remarks. The group talked about how to keep connected with one another as well as when & where to host the next regional conference.
Spencer Pride was one of 3 groups that volunteered to host the next event, which is tentatively planned for March 2019.
For more information about InterPride, visit www.InterPride.org. To become involved with the planning of the annual Spencer Pride Festival, e-mail info@SpencerPride.org or show up to one of the monthly volunteer meetings. The next meeting takes place on Sunday, April 8 from 4 – 6 PM at the Spencer Pride commUnity center meeting room.