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Expect changes at this year’s Utah Pride Festival, potential move to virtual platform

Posted at 10:15 PM, Jun 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-09 00:15:56-04

SALT LAKE CITY – As Pride month continues, the Utah Pride Center discusses plans for the postponed Pride Festival and the possibility of hosting the event on a virtual platform.

Every June in Salt Lake City, the streets are typically filled with balloons, feather boas and rainbows as far as the eye can see.

“There is something magical when the queer community comes together in a space,” said Rob Moolman, the executive director for Utah Pride Center.

Year after year, the Utah Pride Festival draws more than 50,000 people to the parade and just as many to the 2-day event featuring entertainment, vendors and booths.

“I can’t do it in short words,” Moolman said, when asked to explain the event in a handful of words. “I just think it’s joyous, it’s sad, it’s impactful, it’s lifesaving, and it speaks to the opportunity for people to see and be seen as themselves.”

“Yes it’s celebratory, yes it’s fabulous, yes there are rainbow flags from one end of the town to the other -- but for our mental health professionals that work at the Pride Center and provide mental health work, they will tell you story after story about how Pride has saved people’s lives,” Moolman said.

However, this Pride month, things have changed. Streets have lacked the usual color and flare as a pandemic-sized wrench pushed the celebration to late September, the last date the Pride Center felt they could host an outdoor event.

“Pride, it has always been a protest, it has always been about visibility, it has always been about individuals coming together and saying 'Enough is enough' and 'I am here, and my experience and my identity is valid,'” Moolman continued. “We also have the opportunity to celebrate other people’s identities and other people’s joy and to be seen… we kind of connected to a group of people you might not know and you might never see again but you’ve got this common experience.”

UPC said the event needs a ‘mass gathering permit’ and as far as they are concerned, they still have the green light to move forward as planned – but that could change.

“You keep making decisions in this area and space of uncertainty, and a decision you make on Monday may not be the decision you make on Friday because things have changed and you’ve gone from yellow to red to green to whatever,” said Moolman.

Moolman said the reality is, this fall Pride celebration will look different, whether that’s a change to the way people enter, interact or the space required between individuals.

In the event that a mass gathering festival cannot happen, they do have a ‘Plan B’ – moving the festival to an online format, which other cities have started to do.

A representative with UPC said an online platform would entail the same things you could find at the actual festival. In the virtual space, they would want to create an area where users can go to get education and information. They would also bring in local entertainment to create a virtual concert and find a way to allow patrons to have virtual interactions with different vendors and booths.

They have even toyed with the idea of having a virtual parade, or asking people to get involved in their own neighborhoods by hosting their own mini Pride parade and then sharing it with the platform.

“While we love a celebration and we love the big parade and the big festival, we know that Pride is important, Pride will happen, and we know that somewhere in all of us there’s a little bit of Pride and we need to create an outlet for that,” Moolman added. “There is an inherent need in all of us to let our little rainbow flag shine and we want to create a space for that.”

Moolman said over the last four years, the Utah Pride Festival has seen significant growth. Last year, the 2-day event generated more than $1 millilon in revenue for the Pride Center and its programming. With changes to this year’s event, Moolman said donations are more important than ever before.

You can learn more about Utah Pride Center, fundraising and programming HERE.