Categories: Michael Aaron

Salt Lake is a village

Invariably, when I am interviewed by out-of-town reporters and on-air personalities, one of the first questions is, “why are you in Utah?”

I generally joke about the umbilical cord not being long enough to be so far away from my mother, but the truth is, I love Salt Lake City. I love its people and I love its energy.

I moved to Salt Lake in 1981, right from my parents’ house to the University of Utah dorms. Here, I found radicals and fighters and people with passion. But, not the kind of fighting and passion that pits one against another and not the kind that simply fights for the fight. I found people with real beliefs working to make their world a better place.

I have lived in the San Francisco Bay area twice. Both times, I left because their fight there is so over, that they are simply fighting among themselves. Their radicals have to be so far to the extreme that they are simply nonsensical.

But in Salt Lake, there are genuinely good people. Most are in some kind of counter-culture, whether they are of a different race, religion or sexual orientation than the norm, or whether they are motivated by the peace movement, the environmental movement or the arts. Others are drawn in by mistreatment of people whom they love.

It is this last group that mostly makes this “the right place.”

We live in a community of allies. They are not just our allies, many are members of social justice organizations, they attend events to support causes that may not affect them directly, they thrive on the celebration of our differences rather than “tolerate” those around them.

In putting together a wedding reception that ultimately drew 1,500 celebrants, most would think it would take a few months to pull off.

We pulled it off, with help from many allies, in 11 days.

But the best part is actually this: people heard about the event and came to us to support it. We barely put fingers to keypads on our phones. They called us.

The first to come aboard was Le Croissant Catering. Kelly Lake and her team have done many events for our community, thousands of dollars worth of time and food, doing so with a smile, and doing so with a creativity and style that escalates the events to the next level.

When an event planner found herself unable to make our timeline, Le Croissant’s Chris Sanchez stepped up and filled her shoes. (He looks great in stilettos, by the way.) He arranged for furniture and floral, designed the layout, arranged for a mammoth wedding cake, and found lighting to make it the centerpiece of the event.

Kristen Cold with Snow Blossom Bakery made the huge cake and many sheet cakes for the crowd.

Dennis Rowley of MusicWerks spent many, many hours putting the audio and visual elements together. He brought on Precision Audio and Oasis StageWerks, who each donated tens of thousands in equipment rentals, even though Sundance was nipping at their heels. Bob Abeyta agreed to be our audio engineer and, Derek Meik, who came to celebrate with the couples, simply stepped in and became a stage manager. Rowley’s new husband helped set up, tear down and run the stage, all in black tie. Terry Gundersen helped get the equipment back on Monday.

Paul “DJ Pauly” Helms was in from the beginning as well and became a crowd favorite for the night. He kept people on the dance floor, tossing bouquets, trying dance steps and spent hours over several nights choosing just the right music for the night.

Both Otter Creek Duo and Lady Murasaki responded within minutes of a simple Facebook message asking if they’d like to be part of the event.

Charles Lynn Frost agreed to pull Sister Dottie S. Dixon out of hiatus for the show and was a fantastic host(ess).

A last-minute, “Wow, wouldn’t it be cool to have a searchlight for the event?” was handled within 10 minutes by Sean and Tara Willgues from Inflatable Promotions.

Kris Cantil of Kane Consulting called and offered to do security for the event, and the were fantastic. Each donated their time to make sure the event went smoothly — and it did.

Mercedes Zel-Pappas of Utah Coop, Whole Foods Sugar House and

Lee Williams ran the spotlight, D’Arcy Benincosa and Rowley both created videos for the event. Leland Morrill helped with national promotion.

We had over 50 volunteers, managed by Bob Henline, who helped set up, run the show, tear down and come back on Monday to restage the Rail. Melissa Henline, Ken Henline, Craig Ogan, Jason Van Campen, Tad Wada, Amy Barry, Mike Jones, Al Miller, Misty Fowler, Ben Williams, Billie Gay Larson, Christine Souliere, Elizabeth DeHart, Ann Clark, Mark, David Ivey, Debbie, John Edmunds, Harvest Daurelle, Ashton Levier, Matthew Blackham, Mary Jones, Michael Fife, Janet Rose, Robert E. Cross, Rhonda Martinez, Aaron Smith, Liesel Kelly, JP “Systeen” Lumapas, Krista Elliott, Whitney Lomax, Liz Maufas, Mary Raylene Alder, Lee Castillo, Jen Seals, Matt Andrus, Sam Seals, Brett Pehrson, Rory Thompson, Kestrel Spring Liedtke, Lorie Rogerson, Randy Glasscock, DeLacy Healey, Troy Hunter, Emma H., Lisa Westbrook, Sheree Ellis, Susan Lundeen, Madelyn Boudreaux, Whitney Lomax, Kristin Rushforth, Dan Christensen, Beverly Jean Amelia Smith, Vicki McKinney, David Hurst, Brandon Hurst, Nicole Hurst Smith, Laurie Simon, David Daniels, Rachel Farner, Nick Adelman, Thomas Peek, David Salazar, Kevin Johnson, Alana Anderson, Trina Suava, Charles Black, Cherl Merz, the Bud Boys and Girls, Ernie Fox of the Rail, our toasters and sponsors, and I hate that I am likely forgetting many more people, but I had to try. And a mention to those who paid to attend as a donation to Restore Our Humanity.

And that is why I love to live in Salt Lake City. Thank you so much for your help.

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Michael Aaron

Michael Aaron is the editor and publisher of QSaltLake. He has been active in Utah's gay and lesbian community since the early 80s and published two publications then and in the 90s.

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