Sawtooth Botanical Garden is proud of its community | Arts and events

Although expectations were high, last year’s inaugural Pride in the Garden event went even better than Sawtooth Botanical Garden (SBG) Executive Director Jen Smith could have predicted.

“We’ve had success beyond our wildest dreams,” Smith said. “Not only was the community receptive to the idea, but there’s still buzz around this initial event.”

Now, with increased business interest and less COVID restrictions, the Botanical Garden is back with four fun and unique opportunities to celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride in Sun Valley June 15-18.

“Pride is a community thing, and no one does community like the Wood River Valley,” Smith said.

The words “Pride in the Garden” first appeared on a whiteboard in Smith’s office in 2018.

“The vision was to engage a more diverse audience here at the Botanical Garden,” Smith said.

To broaden their horizons, the Sawtooth Botanical Garden has partnered with Sun Valley Resort, which offers two of the four events free of charge.

“Building a respectful, kind and inclusive community is important to us at Sun Valley Resort,” said Pete Sonntag, Vice President and General Manager of Sun Valley Resort.

Pride in the Garden raises funds for the Botanical Garden’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice programming and services, celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to three local Youth Pride Clubs.

All these events are family events.

“It’s important for kids to see themselves in positive representations of loving, giving to people,” Smith said. “Belonging is an important human need, and it’s even more crucial for people who, for whatever reason, are marginalized in society.”

Pride in the Garden Prom: Under the Rainbow — Wednesday, June 15, 5 p.m. — $65 for individuals, $125 for couples

Be ready to dance at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden and dress for success – a “Prom Court” will be crowned.

“[It gives] children – and even adults – an opportunity to participate in an otherwise routine and perhaps formal rite of passage event in a fun, colorful and, above all, inclusive way,” said Smith. “It’s also a fun way to encourage people to dress up, but also to be comfortable.”

Justin Buckles Productions will present performances from drag queens and kings. Marlin Valdivia (aka DJ Diva) will be spinning high energy tunes.

“When you walk into the garden, it’s nothing but love, no judgment,” Valdivia said. “I feel like the Wood River Valley needs more diverse events like Pride…It’ll be fun music and a bit of country sass.”

Local artist Cristine Warjone donated an artwork for the live auction.

The Sawtooth Brewery will sell food and beer. The Garden will host a bar and a soft drink station. Carpooling is encouraged.

Local music legend RL Rowsey returns to speak.

“I was so impressed with the multi-generational involvement last year, overwhelmed with the support from the community as a whole celebrating diversity,” Rowsey said.

The theme of his speech last year was, “Although our love process may not always be perfect, our love is, was, and always will be exactly that – perfect.”

“I just know how to be who I am and share what feels right to me,” Rowsey said. “Everyone brings with them a thread different from the fabric. They will receive whatever lands in their heart based on who they are. We have to figure out how to be kinder, more compassionate, more loving. Not despite our differences, but because of them. Events like this help to find common ground.

Despo’s Diva Dinner — Thursday, June 16, 6 p.m. $125

“Pride is for everyone, and we’re thrilled to have Despo’s join in the Pride party,” Smith said.

Check out the electrifying drag show featuring Dolce Vida, Lylac and Jayla “I tumble!” Rose back from last year’s festivities.

“Otto, the drag king, will bring new levels of entertainment,” Smith said. “You will laugh, you will cry and you will definitely dance.”

Tickets include tacos and drinks.

Fabulous Friday Flick — Friday, June 17, 7 p.m. — Free

The Sun Valley Opera House will present “Mama Bears,” winners of the 2022 Sun Valley Film Festival Best Documentary Feature Award. The film follows two mothers, inspired by love for their children, as they become strong advocates for the LGBTQIA+ community.

“‘Mama Bears’ is a story of finding unconditional love in the face of long-standing feelings and traditions of marginalization of ‘otherness’ and ‘difference,'” Smith said.

Pride Ride — Saturday, June 18, 10 a.m. — Free

“Pride is all about parades,” Smith said.

Design the most fabulous bike possible and ride from Sun Valley Resort to River Run and back along the way through Ketchum.

Participants will meet at 10 a.m. to put the finishing touches on their decorative bikes. The parade will start at 11 a.m.

“We’re hoping to show a colorful and celebratory presentation of Pride and then maybe meet up at Festival Field for a brewsky,” Smith said.

Rebecca Rusch’s Be Good Foundation will lead the parade. A “Glam Marshall” (the winner of a cruiser bike decorated by the Good Deeds Club) will be nominated at the Prom on June 15.

“Inclusiveness and diversity are so important,” Smith said. “It is important to embrace difference in thought, opinion and life… We want to share this belief, share it with the community and hopefully make a difference in people’s lives by helping them to to feel loved and included.” 

Maria R. Newman