SALT LAKE CITY — The 41st annual Utah Pride Festival began Friday, with all-day events scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.
The festival is expected to include marches, rallies, interfaith services, a 5K charity race, entertainment, a parade and other events supporting and celebrating LGBT empowerment in Utah.
"This is a place for everybody that's disenfranchised in the disenfranchised community," said Bonnie O'Brien, a member of the festival's steering committee over the parade and 5K charity race.
This year, festival administrators have sold about 5,000 tickets in advance of the event, a sharp increase from past years when about 200 presale tickets were sold, according to this year's festival director, Valerie Walker.
At least 38,000 people are expected to attend.
"We know how important it is, and we've been working very, very hard to really make this the year that starts the rest of the years here to come, and really remember the years that got us here," Walker said. "We really wanted to pack every single day of the festival full with fun things to do."
As a new feature, credit cards will be accepted at the gates instead of cash only like past festivals. Participants can also purchase tickets online, and ATMs will be available.
Some 275 vendors, about 50 of whom are nonprofit organizations, are expected to be present through the weekend around the Salt Lake City-County Building, The Leonardo and the Salt Lake Main Library. The festival has also doubled the number of food vendors from last year.
Saturday will feature a pride brunch at noon and other festival events beginning at 2 p.m. and going until 11 p.m.
Sunday will include the 5K race that will start and end at 200 S. Edison St. Registration for the race begins at 8 a.m., and the race starts at 9 a.m. Vendor booths will be open Sunday from noon to 7 p.m.
The Utah Pride Festival Parade will run from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday. The parade will follow the same route as last year but go the opposite direction, starting at West Temple and 200 South, going east on 200 South until 400 East. More than 153 entries are scheduled to join the parade, including an honor guard from Hill Air Force Base for the first time.
Entertainment will feature artists such as AB Soto, Perfume Genius, Jason CoZmo, the Salt Lake Men's Choir, Tracy Young and Belinda Carlisle, with stages at various locations around the Salt Lake City-County Building. Panel discussions, which don't require a ticket for admission, will be hosted at the Salt Lake Main Library.
More information on the festival can be found at UtahPrideFestival.org.
Walker said support for the event has grown over the past four decades, though debate still exists between festival goers and advocates of traditional marriage. But she sees that debate as an opportunity for open dialogue.
"The energy has been amazing. We have had a little bit of controversy, but we love that because we were built on people questioning, people starting controversies, people pushing the limits," Walker said. "So even though sometimes it's not as fun for us to get that controversy, we embrace it because it makes a conservation start."