Although it's America's fourth-largest state, Montana (with a statewide population of about a million) doesn't have any major city hubs of LGBT culture. It is not, however, as conservative as you might think. A few of the state's cities—particularly the college towns of Bozeman and Missoula—have visible gay communities and very welcoming attitudes. Given that no single community in Montana has a true LGBT stronghold, the annual Montana Big Sky Pride Celebration—which typically occurs in mid-June—takes place in the capital city of Helena. This site was the original home of the first Montana Gay Pride Celebration over 25 years ago.
The Big Sky Pride event consists of four days of festivities that start on Wednesday at the Snow Hop Brewery in Helena where you can pick up information, pins, stickers, and hoodies. Here, you can hang out with organizers and fellow attendees to get the feel of the event's vibe.
The real festivities kick off on Thursday night with two comedy shows: an all-ages production at the Holter Museum of Art and an adult-only version at The Rathskeller. Other past weekday events have included a movie night, in lieu of a comedy night, and a men's and women's Pride Night, complete with a fundraising party.
Friday and Saturday events include a Welcome Party "Meet and Greet" at the Lewis and Clark Brewery, a Foam Party at The Rialto, and a Mount Helena Hike and Breakfast Saturday morning. But the iconic happening is the Big Sky Pride Parade with over 4,000 participants. Line up starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, where members of the LGBT community gather to strut their stuff down Helena Ave. Following the parade at noon, there's typically a gay pride rally near the city center. And the rest of the day is filled with several fun events, including a block party (which runs into the evening), Bears and Brews, a Drag Show and Dance, and a Recovery Brunch Sunday morning. It's an eclectic and action-packed weekend, as far as events in Montana go.
LGBT Resources in Montana
With the University of Montana as its home base, Missoula is, arguably, the top gay travel destination in the state. And while the city of Missoula doesn't have any designated "gay bars," at Monk's Bar and Bodega Bar you'll find a mix of people and a gay-friendly vibe. While there, stop by the Western Montana LGBT Center to find out about local events, like their First Friday event where you browse LGBT community artwork and mingle with others among snacks and refreshments. The center also hosts community picnics during the summer and a back-to-school college barbecue, come fall.
If you're visiting Missoula's sister college town, Bozeman, check in with the folks over at Bozeman LGBT Community & Friends for fun goings on like Queers & Beers and other meet-and-greet events.