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Pride is ___: LGBT festival asks Utahns to define pride for themselves

SALT LAKE CITY — What does pride mean to you?

That's the theme of this year's Utah Pride Festival, expanded both in size and definition to include more members of the LGBT community and their loved ones.

The message of "Pride is ___," leaving a blank space for Utahns to answer the question for themselves, looks to personal experiences as well as the future of the movement, organizers said.

"Pride is something different to everyone. For some people, it's community. For some people, it's family. For some people, it's diversity. The fact of the matter is we need to have the conversation about what pride is going to be now and in the future," said Jen Parsons-Soran, co-director of the Utah Pride Festival.

The theme also applies well to straight friends and family members who, like Parsons-Soran, want to support LGBT people in their lives.

The weekend begins with an interfaith service Thursday night at First Baptist Church, 777 S. 1300 East, and culminates with a parade along 200 South and the final day of the festival on Sunday.

As many as 35,000 people are expected at the parade, either riding on floats or lining the route from 400 East to the Salt Palace Convention Center, Parsons-Soran said.

The festival has expanded this year to cross 200 East from Washington Square and now includes much of Library Square, where family- and child-friendly activities will be staged, Parsons-Soran said. The Leonardo will also open its first floor to festival guests free of charge.

On Saturday, a three-hour block from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. has been designated as family time.

"We try to keep our entertainment a little bit more PG (rated). We also ask our vendors to also be a bit more PG during that time, so for anyone who hasn't experienced the festival before, that's a good time that we suggest to come," Parsons-Soran said.

A march from the Utah Capitol to Library Square will lead off a kickoff event Friday night. The march, traditionally a demonstration or protest, will look instead at uniting different groups within the community, such as polyamorous and transgender individuals, said coordinator Jocelyn Johnson.

"Last year there were three separate rallies," Johnson said. "This year we've decided to combine the message into one single focus, and that is that this pride community incorporates many different identity groups. … When we demand and assert our rights all together, we get further."

Participants at the interfaith service and the march will receive wristbands to attend Friday's events for free.

The Pride Festival, which has been a permitted Salt Lake City event since 1985, raises funds for Utah Pride Center programs, director Kent Frogley said. Tickets can be purchased at entrances to the festival.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com

Twitter: McKenzieRomero