Rainbow flags greet gay skiers on Main Street | ParkRecord.com

Rainbow flags greet gay skiers on Main Street

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Bill White, one of Park City’s top restaurateurs, was aware as last weekend approached that there was a possibility groups of gay skiers might be stopping in one of his places.

Gay ski week, cancelled in 2009, was on again for 2010, and White hoped some of the skiers would pick his restaurants for their meals. Last Friday night, at the midpoint of the ski week, White flew sizable rainbow flags, widely recognized as representing gay pride, outside four of his places, including three on Main Street.

The brightly colored flags on Main Street were striking on the restaurant buildings with their muted tones. They were also among the most overt displays of solidarity with gays seen in Park City since gay rights were catapulted to the forefront of equal-rights discussions in the state in reaction to the passage of a California ballot measure against same-sex marriage.

The flags remained on display early in the week. White said in an interview they would come down soon, though. There were at least two other businesses on Main Street — a fur seller and an art gallery — that acknowledged gay ski week with signs in their windows. White put the flags outside Grappa, Chimayo and Wahso on Main Street and outside Windy Ridge Cafe off Bonanza Drive.

"Park City, being Park City, should show, listen guys, you’re welcome here," White said. "Of all the communities in Utah, Park City’s probably the most liberal."

The ski week organizers cancelled last year’s event after not enough people signed up beforehand. An organizer said at the time the skiers were showing solidarity with those who called for a boycott of Utah based on their unhappiness with role of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the California ballot measure. This year’s ski week did not draw the same numbers as those in previous years, an organizer said, but approximately 70 traveled to Park City for the event, lasting from Wednesday until Sunday.

White, who said at least 15 gay people work for his restaurant enterprise, was unable to gauge whether the flags helped business while the gay skiers were in Park City. He said, though, he did not put the flags up as a way to cash in on gay ski week. The restaurants did not receive complaints about the flags, he said.

"We should be accepting of all people who decide to visit our community," White said.

Including the White restaurants, at least five businesses on Main Street marked gay ski week in some fashion. Alaska Fur Gallery put up a small sign reading "The Rainbow is welcome here." At Silver Queen Fine Art, the owner put up a more elaborate sign greeting the gay skiers. Timm Hilty, the owner of the gallery, said nobody had mentioned the sign shortly after it went up.

Hilty, who is gay, said the sign neither brought in business nor offended customers. He said gay pride remains important since, according to Hilty, gays remain "hindered" in some rights such as the ability to marry.

"It’s my weekend to be proud. That’s why we put it in the window," Hilty said about the sign.

One of the organizers of the ski week, John Harriott, said the people in Park City were welcoming to the group. He said the Phoenix Gallery on Main Street unexpectedly hosted the skiers for a party after the owner learned of the group’s visit. Harriott said the skiers appreciated the efforts to welcome them this year.

"People did notice that and were pleasantly surprised," Harriott said, adding, "It was very, very good this year."

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