Clouds hung over Missoula for the second day, but the Oval was bright, welcoming and filled with rainbows. Community members and organizations joined UM’s LGBTQ+ students on Thursday afternoon as part of the Rainbow Welcome, put on by the Lambda Alliance.

The Lambda Alliance, the University’s official LGBTQ+ support organization, puts on the Rainbow Welcome every year and invites local organizations to set up tables. This year’s organizations included Out There Missoula, the Montana Gay Men’s Task Force, the Western Montana LGBTQ Community Center and more.

According to Lambda President Jaz Dierenfield, this year’s turnout was the biggest the organization has had in years. During their time in Lambda, Dierenfield said Lambda’s presence on campus has increased, not just through the Rainbow Welcome but with other events as well, and they’re excited about the increase in exposure.

Andy Nelson, with the Western Montana LGBTQ Alliance, said that though he wasn’t out when he attended UM, he remembers the Rainbow Welcome happening even then. Nelson said that he’s glad that the opportunity to explore Missoula's LGBTQ+ support system and connect with other people.

“I love this event because ... the community and University of Montana can welcome our rainbow folks to college with happy, open arms,” Nelson said. He said he’s glad that the opportunity to connect with other people is so accessible to students now.

Freshman Izabella McTague, 18, said she was nervous to go to the Rainbow Welcome at first because she feels like she hasn't found her group on campus yet, but she said she met a lot of fun people at the event.

Later this semester the Lambda Alliance is putting on other larger events, including a meet-and-greet potluck on Sept. 11 in the University Center, National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11, a s’mores event outside the Payne Family Native American Center, a Transgender Day of Remembrance in November, and more. More information about these events can be found on the University of Montana Lambda Alliance Facebook page and its Instagram @umlambda.