‘Love whoever you want’: Montage hosts Pride on the Mountain

By Marcella Kester - For Times Leader
Brian Orbin, 20, of Harveys Lake, holds Ashley Heffner, 23, of Swoyersville, in the wave pool at the Waterpark at Montage Mountain during Saturdays’ Pride on the Mountain celebration. - Sean McKeag | For Times Leader
Bella Ocampo, 3, of Dover, N.J., stands under a rainbow, symbolizing gay pride, during Pride on the Mountain at the Waterpark at Montage Mountain on Saturday. - Sean McKeag | For Times Leader
Diana Webb, 18, of Carlisle, and Terra Stark, 23, of Harrisburg, listen to live music during Pride on the Mountain at the Waterpark at Montage Mountain in Moosic on Saturday. - Sean McKeag | For Times Leader

A little wet weather didn’t stop hundreds from attending the annual Pride on the Mountain Saturday, hosted by the NEPA Rainbow Alliance.

Initially held as Pridefest at Kirby Park, the alliance has been partnering with Montage Mountain for years to hold the family-friendly, end-of-summer celebration.

While many attendees opted to stay indoors or under the covering of multiple tents, some decided to have a little fun despite the soggy conditions. Dozens trucked up the mountain with mats and tubes in hand to utilize one of the many slides and attractions available.

Admission was only $5, making Pride on the Mountain much more affordable for all, according to Rainbow Alliance Board Communications Director Kerri Price. Explaining how the LGBTQ community has long been economically disadvantaged, Price said lowering admission breaks the cycle while allowing more individuals to attend.

“It’s so important for our community to feel welcomed – no matter who they are,” she said. “There’s no prerequisite to be part of this community.”

As patrons enjoyed Montage’s Lazy River, local cover band M80 completed its first set. Bassist and vocalist Les Eckhert stopped to explain why the band has been proudly participating in Pride for years.

“A bunch of my friends are in the community,” he said. “We play it almost ever year, so this is something we always like to do.”

While Pride on the Mountain featured entertainment, vendors, a drag show and even a visit from Congressman Matt Cartwright, there was one thing not a part of this year’s festivities: cigarettes.

Thanks to a sponsor, Price said the event was completely smoke-free as a way to continue making the venue as family-friendly as possible.

‘Love whoever you want’

Inside, Trixy Valentine posed for photos while supporting a local organization that assists with free health screenings. Wearing a tiara with a Caring Communities pin in the center, Valentine stopped to talk to people waiting in line for free HIV and STD tests.

The nonprofit serves 12 counties throughout Northeast and Central Pennsylvania, providing case management, community education and more in addition to no-cost screenings.

“It’s one of our largest testing events of the year,” Caring Communities Operations Director Celeste Straub said. “We have been known in the community long enough that people actually come out to Pride with the intention of getting tested with us while they’re (here).”

Finishing their round of water rides, Brian Orbin and Ashley Heffner stepped out of the wave pool as they made their way over to a group of vendors. It was their first time attending Pride on the Mountain, and Orbin visited because he wanted to support the local LGBTQ community.

“You shouldn’t have to be with somebody just because society says you should be,” he explained. “You should be able to love whoever you want, even if you’re straight.”

Brian Orbin, 20, of Harveys Lake, holds Ashley Heffner, 23, of Swoyersville, in the wave pool at the Waterpark at Montage Mountain during Saturdays’ Pride on the Mountain celebration.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_TTL090918PrideontheMountain2.jpgBrian Orbin, 20, of Harveys Lake, holds Ashley Heffner, 23, of Swoyersville, in the wave pool at the Waterpark at Montage Mountain during Saturdays’ Pride on the Mountain celebration. Sean McKeag | For Times Leader

Bella Ocampo, 3, of Dover, N.J., stands under a rainbow, symbolizing gay pride, during Pride on the Mountain at the Waterpark at Montage Mountain on Saturday.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_TTL090918PrideontheMountain3.jpgBella Ocampo, 3, of Dover, N.J., stands under a rainbow, symbolizing gay pride, during Pride on the Mountain at the Waterpark at Montage Mountain on Saturday. Sean McKeag | For Times Leader

Diana Webb, 18, of Carlisle, and Terra Stark, 23, of Harrisburg, listen to live music during Pride on the Mountain at the Waterpark at Montage Mountain in Moosic on Saturday.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_TTL090918PrideontheMountain1.jpgDiana Webb, 18, of Carlisle, and Terra Stark, 23, of Harrisburg, listen to live music during Pride on the Mountain at the Waterpark at Montage Mountain in Moosic on Saturday. Sean McKeag | For Times Leader
Montage hosts Pride on the Mountain

By Marcella Kester

For Times Leader