FAIR IS FAIR: Billings, Montana

FUN FACTS ABOUT BILLINGS -Billings is Montana's largest city with a population of 104,934

-The Crow Reservation is the largest of Montana's seven reservations at about 2,300,000 acres and is located about ten miles south of Billings.

-Just south of Billings the Battle of the Little Bighorn, also known as Custer's Last Stand, took place on June 25, 1876. The Indians that day wiped out all of Custer's men in less than 20 minutes.

-Arlo Guthrie attended Billings' Rocky Mountain College in 1965

-During the Wild West days in Billings, Montana, the cowboys and scarlet ladies of every saloon performed impossible dances atop bars, tables, and in some instances upon the pianos.

SATURDAY EVENING, SEPTEMBER 17, 2011

We've had a full day today in Billings starting with a clergy breakfast at Good Earth Market where we sat tucked cozily away in the seating upstairs in the open air rafters. From our nest we talked about why clergy need to speak out in support of domestic partnerships and LGBT equality, why some are hesitant, and what would help them not to be. Out of that came a wonderful suggestion that will be launched tomorrow morning when Gil co-preaches with the Rev. Susan Otey at Grace United Methodist Church. We also talked about the power of lay people to create change. View this impassioned clip of Barbara Sample.

Outside in the parking lot, we made the tour official!

Gil visited a clergyman at a predominantly African American church in town. Later he and Ninia did a television news interview, and not long after we were off to our first public event. We arrived at Grace United Methodist Church to see two young women in flowing dresses hula-hooping in the grass. This was our "welcoming committee" and fit perfectly with the beautiful fall evening. The event was well attended by a jovial crowd. We were impressed by the commitment in the room to organize for domestic partnerships. There were questions about how to create authentic dialogue that reaches below the surface. Humor and trust and willingness to make mistakes and feel awkward are the cornerstones. It's not easy, but before we can move forward, we must find ways to communicate in deeper ways.

There was also interest in hearing about whether the LGBT Equality Movement can be compared to the Civil Rights Movement. What we've found is not to seek equivalencies but to let each movement stand on its own in its own particular historical and personal experience. Where we come together is in talking about our experiences of discrimination, hate, and legalized oppression for the purpose of working to create better lives for all people.

Ninia gave an update on the Donaldson & Guggenheim vs. State of Montana lawsuit. People readily signed statements of support and afterward sat around talking and laughing.

Tomorrow morning begins with worship service at Grace UMC and then off to Bozeman. Can't wait for Gil to see the change in terrain from the flat open land to the rise of the many mountain ranges!

MORE FUN FACTS ABOUT BILLINGS

-Billings is called the "City Beneath the Rimrocks." The Rimrocks (also known as the "Rims") are a 300 to 800 foot geologic sandstone formation located on the north side of the city.

-Billings was the first stop on the 11th leg of The Amazing Race

-Charles Lindberg used to live in Billings, as did Calamity Jane.

-In Billings it is illegal to keep a rat as a pet.