Downtown Salt Lake City is buzzing with eager anticipation as this year’s Utah Pride Festival approaches. Held this week from Thursday, June 4 to Sunday, June 7, the celebration showcases our state’s proud lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Organized and managed by the Utah Pride Center, the event hosts a massive array of exciting and positive activities, including Utah’s second-largest parade, the Pride Parade. The theme for 2015 is Pride Is…, purposefully designed to encourage everyone to reflect on and embrace the meaning of Pride for them personally.
The Utah Pride Festival began in 1974 as a small, informal gathering in City Creek Park of proud residents who were ready and willing to celebrate their community. Joe Redburn and the staff of the Sun Tavern loosely organized it. In the decades since, it has grown to meteoric proportions and become a staple of the city’s annual calendar, serving as a bright and bold opportunity to come together, educate, and revel in the robust diversity of the community. These days, the Festival attracts over 35,000 participants – and that number grows every year! Nearly 1,000 volunteers will cover 1,400 shifts and vendors will staff hundreds of booths. The Pride Parade alone included 143 entries last year and drew about 25,000 spectators.
The 2015 iteration includes a number of exciting activities for LGBTQ community members, families, friends, and allies. On Thursday, the Community of Christ will host an Interfaith Service at First Baptist Church. The following evening begins with the Grand Marshal Reception. This year’s Grand Marshal is Janet Mock, the prominent advocate, speaker, and New York Times bestelling author. In addition to receptions, the Grand Marshal leads the Pride Parade. Afterwards, there will be poster making and rallies, followed by a kick-off party and Opening Ceremonies.
Saturday afternoon, the Festival Gates open at 3pm. Festival organizers have planned a number of “zones” for different activities and to cater to different visitors, including a SAGE Zone (for everyone), a Youth Zone, a Family Zone, a Gender Zone (to celebrate and support transgender identities), a Health Zone, a Pet Zone, a History Zone, and several more. At 8pm headliner DEV will take the stage. The rest of the evening is dedicated to a dance party. Sunday starts with a Pride Day 5k Fun Run at 9 in the morning, followed by the beloved Utah Pride Parade at 10. The Festival Gates open again at 11am, with entertainment scheduled (including headliner XELLE) until the Festival closes at 7pm.
The Utah Pride Center oversees the Festival, in addition to a growing portfolio of ongoing and annual services, events, and activities that support the state’s LGBT community. The Center evolved from the Utah Stonewall Center which was founded in the early 1990s.