The 2012 Utah Pride Festival flourished last weekend as the LGBT community and its allies came together to support individuality and civil rights.
The festival was stationed in Washington Square on Saturday and Sunday, along with the Grand Marshal Reception held at The Leonardo on Friday. The reception honored Academy Award winning screenwriter Dustin Black and kicked off the festival opening. The festival officially began Saturday morning with a charity 5K that raised money for the Utah Pride’s Student Scholarship Program. The day was filled with civil rights protesters from the Dyke March, Transgender March and interfaith walk that swept through downtown. The evening concluded with performances from Prince Poppycock, ROTCSLC and many others.
Sunday began with the annual PRIDE Parade, starting off with The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints members that support LGBT equality. Their float contained about 100 people and was cheered on by the excited audience.
“I wasn’t really sure what to expect,” said Seth Anderson, a festival attendee. “It was really well received and kind of moving for a lot of people.”
Thousands of festival-goers individually showed their pride through costumes, drag and political signs that spoke out for pride in oneself and equality for all.
“Pride is all about just loving who you are,” said Zack Hasychak, the membership outreach manager for Human Rights Campaign.
“For me, pride is all about visibility and community,” said Brandie Balkin, Equality Utah’s executive director.
A parade participant adorned in drag who went by the name of Petunia Papsmear said, “Pride means self-awareness, self-confidence and not accepting the shame people try to heap upon me.”
Although the definitions and faces of pride varied throughout the festival, everyone stood to support LGBT causes — except for one man. One protester stood outside the northeast entrance to the festival. Five cops stood behind him to keep the peace as angry festival-goers surrounded the man, arguing and cheering against him.
Utah’s Pride Festival is held as one of the premier pride festivals in the country. Not only does the parade keep growing in numbers, — more than 20,000 attendees were counted last year — but it also represents two dichotomies coming together.
“When you live in a state like Utah where it’s so conservative and there are so many anti-gay people, this is the one weekend a year where people can be themselves,” Hasychak said.
Utah’s Pride Festival began as a small gathering in 1983 and is now headed by the Utah Pride Center, supporting thousands who attend the event who come from all over the world.