Peter Kleinpass 

Curator of museum exhibits and planner of Pride festivals, Peter Kleinpass joins us by way of Washington state to share his story of volunteering in South Dakota and how a tight-knit community keeps him around.

What does it look like, for you, to celebrate Pride?

Pride is all about celebrations and acceptance, whether that is celebrating who you are, the history of LGBTQ culture, or whatever that may be. No matter your age, your size, shape, or color, Pride is a great time to be who you are without fear.

It’s also about creating spaces to celebrate what makes us unique outside of the Pride season.

What has your experience been like, living as an out-LGBTQ person in South Dakota?

Living on the West Coast was generally more accepting. Growing up there it wasn’t uncommon to meet LGBTQ people or folks who were different than me. So when I decided to move to South Dakota, I was a little apprehensive of just how accepting a smaller town in the Midwest would be toward queer culture. The thought of going back into the closet was always at the forefront of my mind on my way here, which wasn’t a great feeling. To my surprise, however, I wasn’t presented with any issues in Pierre. In fact, I flourished after finding my community and even finding love. It’s been a really great experience so far.

So, you’re not from South Dakota. What made you want to move here and eventually get involved in LGBTQ advocacy?

I am originally from the West Coast, and moved here for my job.

After moving here, I was able to find support within the LGBTQ community and through allies who live here. Finding them allowed me to get involved with Equality South Dakota and the Pierre Pride festival, which wouldn’t have been as easy back home. LGBTQ advocacy groups in larger cities are generally very established and have long-standing boards with very few vacancies – even if there is one, it is pretty competitive to get on board.

The ease of getting involved and the huge market of local goods is what keeps me in Pierre. This little city has everything I need within grasp, with a warm, welcoming environment where everyone knows one another.

Do you think more people should get involved politically? If so, how.

Yes. We’re in quite a unique position as South Dakotans. We have direct access to our elected officials at a moment’s notice, which is great when we take advantage of it. Their decisions affect our lives every single day.

We each have three elected officials representing us, and they still answer to us outside of the legislative session. The time is now to contact them, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Just take a minute to introduce yourself, remind them what your priority issues are, and how you hope to see them affect change in your community. Legislative session takes about six weeks out of the year, so we cannot ignore the other 46.

Where do you see Pierre’s Pride festival in the next 5 years?

Realistically, I hope to see Pierre’s Pride festival grow year after year. Our small-knit community is what’s driving it now, and I hope it continues to be the main force. I’d love to see more local business support it, and more people from the region show up to events.

Pride is much more than just a festival.

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