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More than 300 people came to this year’s skate night, a 20 percent increase from last year, at Crystal Palace (Photo/Wesley Juhl).
More than 300 people came to this year’s skate night, a 20 percent increase from last year, at Crystal Palace (Photo/Wesley Juhl).

Las Vegas LGBT Pride Celebration Started With Family Skate Night

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Southern Nevada Association of Pride Inc. and Vegas Mpowerment Project kicked off Las Vegas’s yearly pride week with a family skate night at Crystal Palace on Monday.

More than 300 people came to this year’s skate night, a 20 percent increase from last year. While the event targeted LGBT youth and families, many veterans of the LGBT scene came to show their support, like ActionRED founder Lane Olsen and Las Vegas Assemblyman James Healey (former president of the pride board).

Many people came unaware there was an LGBT event happening, but they all joined in with good cheer.

“It’s actually really fun,” said Kris Phenix, 27.

The night was a festive mix of free skating, line dancing, racing and even included a performance by a drag queen.

“It’s turning into somewhat of an annual tradition for us,” UNLV alumni Robert Peraza said. Peraza is Outreach Coordinator for Vegas Mpowerment.

For the second year in a row the pride board collaborated with The Center’s Vegas Mpowerment Project for the free event.

“It’s fantastic working with Pride,” said Joshua Montgomery, the coordinator of Vegas Mpowerment Coordinator and HIV Prevention Director for The Center. “We split the bill, we both market it, and it’s a great team effort.”

Vegas Mpowerment Project is a nonprofit social group for gay, bi and trans men between the ages of 18 and 29 funded by grants from the Southern Nevada Health District.

The group promotes safer sex practices through community outreach and at events. Free HIV testing is available on-site at every Mpowerment event.

“Twenty-three people received free testing during last year’s skate night,” Montgomery said. “Hopefully this year we’ll get more than 30. That’s our goal.”

Mpowerment events are meant to create a social space for young men outside of the gay bars. The group uses a peer-education model to spread information about safe sex and sexually transmitted infections throughout the community.

“The most important thing is to know your status,” Montgomery said. “Once people know their status, we can get them into treatment which will make it less likely for a person to transfer HIV. Drug adherence and lower viral loads reduce the chances of spreading it.”

In preparation for the event, Mpowerment members volunteered a record-breaking 120 hours in August, Peraza said.

“The guys really stepped up to make August a big month and make this a big event,” Peraza said.

Volunteers did 16 outreaches and distributed 3000 safer-sex kits.

“It’s good for them to represent their own community, for younger people struggling with their own identity and sexuality,” Montgomery said. “It gives them the strength and confidence to come out.”

Vegas Mpowerment Project meets every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7 p.m. at The Center. Condoms, lubricants, and dental dams are available for free to the community.

The Las Vegas Pride Night Parade is Friday, and the pride festival is on Saturday.

Contact reporter Wesley Juhl at wes.juhl@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @WesJuhl.

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