The sleepy northern Nevada town announced they will close a street in downtown to hold a parade and festival on July 16 and 17, with floats, vendors from local business, and, of course, drag queens. Located in the Great Basin Desert on Interstate 80 between Reno and Salt Lake City, Winnemucca was made famous in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, but it’s known more recently for its remote location and conservative political views. According to a report in the Nevada Independent, the importance of the inaugural event was not lost on the person most responsible for its creation.
“The significance is to show everybody that it's OK to be you and to be loved and love who you want,” long-time Winnemucca resident Shawn Dixon told the Nevada Independent. “That's it right there — just love and acceptance and diversity and equality and all of those things that I think are human rights.”
Dixon, along with her wife of over 22 years, raised their daughter together in Winnemucca. She’s been an out lesbian since 1991 and said a Winnemucca Pride parade was something she’d “dreamed of for years and years,” but had little hope of ever seeing it take place.
Her perspective on life changed with a March 2020 cancer diagnosis.
“I was sitting outside one night after being sick from chemo, and it just hit me that it had to be done,” Dixon recalled of her epiphany. “We have to have this, and I can do it, and I asked a few friends.”
Preschool teacher Christina Basso, Misty Huff from the local grocery story, and daughter Kat Dixon all pitched in to help make Shawn’s dreams a reality. The event initially began with just the idea to walk down a street waving a Pride flag. It has grown exponentially larger since then, with the city council voting unanimously to close Melarkey Street through downtown. The public sessions had the added benefit of opening the door to future coordination with the local government and community groups.
“What transpired from our public meetings has just been phenomenal,” Basso said. “Not just the support from the community, but individuals in the community expressing what they need and what they want. It’s kind of emotional.”
Winnemucca is located in northern Nevada with much of its economy based on local mining. A stop on the original Transcontinental Railroad, the town of roughly 8,000 is now serviced by Amtrak’s California Zephyr runs between San Francisco and Chicago. Winnemucca is also a travel hub for drivers due to its location on both Interstate 80 and US Route 95. The town is well-known for its Basque restaurants and influences, resulting from a 19th century influx of immigrants from the Pyrenees Mountains and Bay of Biscay regions of Europe.
The Ruby Mountains
Nearby attractions include the mountain gambling retreat of Reno to the west, while unparalleled hiking and backpacking opportunities await to the east in the Ruby Mountains just past Elko. For the more adventurous, there’s also Jarbidge to the north along the Idaho border. The small mountain community has been dubbed the most remote town in the lower 48.
Winnemucca gained fame within the LGBTQ+ community when Armistead Maupin included the town as the birthplace of transgender landlady Anna Madrigal in the Tales of the City novels. Maupin wrote on his Facebook page the Winnemucca Pride story was “inspirational on so many levels” and that he can’t wait to meet the ladies on his return from London.
The first ever Winnemucca Pride parade and festival will take place July 16 and 17. You can learn more about Winnemucca, check out their calendar of events, and download a local visitor’s guide at winnemucca.com