For a hundred years now, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has celebrated Elkfest. Mike Maurer writes that the town Boy Scouts head into the National Elk Refuge, collect antlers that the elks have shed, and sell them in town at the festival. The proceeds help pay for feeding the elk.
More recently, Elkfest has become a target for the kind of anti-abortion protesters who show up with huge, gruesome signs and hand out frightening flyers. Last year, the people of Jackson Hole responded angrily to the protesters, in a way that left them hoping for a better response if the protesters showed up for this year’s Elkfest.
A couple weeks back, they formed Jackson Hole United, a self-proclaimed group of “pro-life and pro-choice citizens of Jackson Hole standing for civility, compassion and love, united to protect our community and our children.” They held a meeting in which they urged their neighbors to remain peaceful, and to get involved in a campaign of diverting attention from the visitors. “Each of you can be the face of this community,” said Cliff Kirkpatrick, a co-organizer of the Boy Scout Antler Auction, pictured above. “You have the opportunity to present this community the way we know it really is.”
This time around, instead of fighting with the protesters, the people of Jackson Hole decided they would help their neighbors avoid them.
If you saw the protesters somewhere, you reported it on the Jackson Hole United Facebook page, with a call for help holding up signs. “Turn here to avoid to avoid protesters,” one sign read. Another said, “Stay calm. Graphic images ahead.” The results weren’t perfect, but Elkfest happened peacefully.
The homegrown response does seem to have made a difference. “As a pregnant woman, it was the best gift in the world to simply be reminded that the signs were coming and not to look,” someone wrote on the page. “It really isn’t about changing their hearts, this has been about changing ours,” another wrote. And this: “I swear the Tetons looked taller tonight.”
(Thanks to Mike for the story and the photo up top. The rest of you: Send news and pics from your town. It’s happy-making.)