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Utah Pride organizers prep for fall festival, consider ‘exciting’ alternate events based on health guidelines

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Nordstrom employees march in the 44th annual Utah Pride Parade in Salt Lake City on Sunday, June 2, 2019.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Each year tens of thousands of Utahns line the streets of Salt Lake City to honor and celebrate the LGBTQ community during the Utah Pride Festival.

The festival, originally slated to take place last weekend, has been pushed back to Sept. 26-27 due to mass-gathering restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Festival organizers are considering a variety of alternate options if the health situation and subsequent decisions made by legislators and health officials doesn’t align with holding a traditional Pride festival in September.

“We are looking at some really exciting events in the worst-case scenario. We want to make sure that people are seen and able to kind of get together within these weird new rules that we live in,” said Utah Pride Center Executive Director Rob Moolman.

The important thing to know though, he said, is there will certainly be a Pride festival of some sort as the community needs it.

Among the possibilities organizers are considering is a virtual Pride festival and a car parade made up of community members. There are other options too, which organizers want to “keep close to chest” for now, Moolman said.

“We’ve got plan B, plan C, plan D and plan E,” Moolman said. “We are happy to really go forward to tell our communities that we want to be there for them in a visible way and we hope that September is going to be something that they are going to enjoy and really be able to come together as a community.”

The Utah Pride Center, which provides a variety of services to youth and adults such as mental health services and support groups, announced the festival was postponed in April, saying the decision was madein consultation with local public health officials and Gov. Gary Herbert’s Utah Leads Together Plan.

As of now the march and rally, OUTdoors and Proud 5K, and festival opening ceremonies will take place on Sept. 26. The Pride parade, the largest event, is planned for the following day.

The Utah Pride Center sent out a press release Tuesday describing a restructuring of the center in order to “reduce its cost structure and optimize operational efficiency” in light of declining economic conditions and a decrease in revenue sources and fundraising opportunities. More info about the restructuring can be found at the center’s website.

The center held a virtual gala last weekend where Moolman said he saw a number of comments from participants emphasizing the importance of holding some sort of Pride festival.

“One of the things that was very, very clear from those comments was the need for our communities — particularly our LGBTQ community — to feel connected,” he explained. “One of the things that COVID has done is increase feelings of disconnectedness — we are seeing increased rates of depression, we are seeing increased rates of people feeling left out, left behind.”

The Pride festival is also a fundraiser for the “important, critical, lifesaving” work done at the Utah Pride Center, Moolman said — another reason the festival takes place.

According to Moolman, one of the things he’s heard time and time again as director of the center is that the festival saves lives.

“Pride is something that enables individuals who might have never been out in their communities or out in their families to come together and see other people being celebrated,” he said. “Other people being their true selves and being themselves and recognizing that it is possible for themselves as well.” 

In addition to planning for the upcoming September festival and the various formats in which that could take place, the Utah Pride Center is supporting an upcoming event called Pride for Black Lives Matter. The event, which will include speeches from a person of color in the queer community and a march, is scheduled for June 14 at 12:30 p.m..

“Pride itself started as a riot. It started with eight days of protest. So we are recognizing not only the shared history and point in time, but also that it is important for us to be in the community supporting queer people of color through this particular time,” Moolman said. “We should always be doing it, but we need to be visibly present to work across a variety of spaces with our queer brothers and sisters in the POC movement, fighting for their rights right now and their visibility.”