On June 1, 2013, the Utah Pride Festival swept into Washington Square in downtown Salt Lake City, injecting the normally peaceful square with live concerts, tantalizing food, and the joyful enthusiasm of the LGBT community and its supporters.
The highlight was the annual Pride Parade where the Mormons Building Bridges entry drew most of the attention and applause.
The festival ended on June 2, 2013.
“I feel there are a lot of people who see Mormons as anti-gay, and that’s really hard for me,” says Channing Lowe, an instructor of film production at SLCC. “Marching in the parade feels a bit controversial because there are some people that have been hurt by the church, but I heard a lot of people saying thank you, and I saw a few people crying.”
This was the second year that the Mormons Building Bridges has marched in the parade
The group stood out from the other more colorful and festive entries as many of the marchers were dressed in church attire. The goal of the group was to help heal the divide between the LDS and LGBT community.
“This is the most fantastic experience you could ever have; I felt like a rock star marching in the parade,” says Stacey Lowe, who marched with Mormons Building Bridges and is a student at SLCC. “People are just so excited to see us, and I think the community has been longing for more acceptance from the LDS community.”
There were marchers in drag and storm-trooper costumes, while others wore colorful shirts with messages like “What’s your guilty pleasure” and “Everybody is different, deal with it.” Other unique entries included a float that brought a Brazilian flavor with samba music and dancing and another that was a fully functional dance club on wheels.
Corporate sponsorship played a big part in the parade with companies like Wells Fargo, eBay and Petco showing their support for their employees and the LGBT community. There were politicians pandering for votes, and a cardboard version of Mitt Romney made a cameo appearance.
The festival was a coalition of color and diversity that artfully fused alternative lifestyles and live entertainment into a three-day celebration of pride and acceptance.
Diversity was the main course at the festival as the square was teeming with exotic food offerings from all over the world and various booths that celebrated alternative lifestyles and brought awareness to the community.
The Utah Gay Fathers Association had a booth promoting fellowship and support for gay men with children. SlutWalk SLC provided help and information for ending rape culture and supporting victims of sexual assault. For those who simply felt like shopping, there were booths selling everything from hemp sandals to shirts with slogans like “Long Hair Don’t Care.”
“The festival is a good way to get involved with the community. I just think the Pride Center and the people who attend the festival are awesome,” says Linda Van Dijk, a volunteer and student at Salt Lake Community College (SLCC).