Column: Pride Weekend goes ‘wild’Not all of the people who arrived at Duluth Superior Pride were friends of wildlife when they arrived. But each of them left the festival, perhaps one of the oldest and best Pride festivals in the nation, with an encounter with Wildwoods, our local wildlife rehabilitation organization.
By: David Beard, For the Budgeteer News
Not all of the people who arrived at Duluth Superior Pride were friends of wildlife when they arrived. But each of them left the festival, perhaps one of the oldest and best Pride festivals in the nation, with an encounter with Wildwoods, our local wildlife rehabilitation organization.
Our Pride celebration is nationally and regionally recognized. Out magazine called Duluth-Superior Twin Ports Pride one of the nation’s best small-town Pride celebrations — “The Hottest Small Town Pride” in 2005. As a result, it draws participants from as far away as Milwaukee to the east and Winnipeg to the north and west. The festival has sometimes surpassed 10,000 people in attendance.
The Twin Ports is lucky to be home to a major Pride event that still has that grassroots organization and investment from the community. And it’s that grassroots appeal that made Pride a great partner for Wildwoods.
At the 2013 Pride events, you could listen to poetry, you could exhaust yourself in a 5K run. You could watch (or participate) in parades or drag shows. The diversity of activities reflects the diversity of the
Lisa Lepak, Wildwoods board member and fundraising coordinator, recalled, “As a member of the gay-lesbian community as well as a volunteer with Wildwoods, I knew that Pride would be a good fit for our group. The organizers, festivalgoers and other vendors were incredibly welcoming and accepting of the Wildwoods’ mission.”
At this year’s Pride, Wildwoods was a major part of the fun. Counting on the stretch of above-average temperatures to hold out, Wildwoods opted to bring a dunk tank to the festival. From the time it was set up at 9 a.m. until the festival ended, there was a constant line for the tank … for both people who wanted to sit in it as well as people who wanted to test their coordination by trying to dunk others.
But most importantly, Lepak said, “There is a relationship between the work for human rights that we have seen engaged in Minnesota this year and the work of Wildwoods.” It’s true that some of Wildwoods’ patients are winged, and that others among them are furry. But it’s also true that there is continuity between the respect we show for wildlife and the respect we show for each other as human beings.
This is why Wildwoods does special outreach to schools, daycares, and community centers. Kate Vo Thi-Beard, the education coordinator, says that Wildwoods has given dozens of lectures, presentations, and event appearances in the last three years. According to Kate, outreach to children is outreach at a very crucial time — a time when they can learn to respect wildlife in a way that lasts a lifetime.
Vo Thi-Beard says that “The kids are eager and enthusiastic to share their stories about wildlife. We hope that the information we present stays with them so that the next time they encounter an animal in distress, they'll tell their parents or guardians. In turn, families learn more about wildlife and wildlife rehabilitation and know that there are resources out there for them.”
And that’s why partnering with Pride has been essential to the education and outreach mission of Wildwoods. Lepak says that “In my experience both the LGBTQI community, as well as in nature, some creatures seem to be viewed as outliers. It’s good for everyone when those creatures come together in the spirit of love and community.”
Wildwoods is a 501(c)3 non-profit wildlife rehabilitation organization based in Duluth, MN. For more information on how you can help wildlife, including information on becoming a volunteer, go to www.wildwoodsrehab.org, or call us at 218-491-3604.
David Beard is a volunteer with Wildwoods and is married to Wildwoods education coordinator Kate Vo Thi-Beard.