Provo Pride is making history this weekend with the first annual Provo Pride Festival. No, that’s not a typo; it’s in Provo. The free, family-friendly festival will take place all day on Sept. 21, at Memorial Park (800 E. Center St., Provo).
This LGBT pride festival isn’t a first for Utah—Salt Lake City has had a pride festival since 1983 and Moab started having one in 2011—but it’s definitely a first for arguably the most conservative city in the West.
While the inaugural event won’t be as large as the 28,000-attendee Salt Lake festival, about a thousand people are expected to attend.
According to the organization’s website, “The first ever Provo Pride Festival aims to be a beacon to the community of Utah Valley to show that it is ok to be who you are . . . we hope to show those who feel they are alone, rejected and unloved by their community and family that they are OK.”
The festival will have music, vendors and activities including an obstacle course (adults only), bocce, croquet, Twister and a bounce house for the wee ones.
Festival organizers hope the festival will “bring the open LGBTQ community into contact with both the closeted community in Utah County and the Utah County community at large in the hopes of fostering understanding between the three groups.”
Roseanna Hopper of Salt Lake City is a seasoned pride festival goer and is friends with some of the Provo Pride organizers. When Hopper moved to Provo to attend BYU in 2008, she felt like the campus and the community were unwelcoming of differing opinions, especially concerning Prop 8 at the time.
“I felt really uncomfortable because there were Prop 8 signs all over . . . but there was no opposition of campus,” Hopper said. “There was this attitude of ‘we all agree here on how we feel about Prop 8,’ and I didn’t feel that way. I disagreed . . . and I didn’t really feel like I could speak up about it on campus, and I wasn’t sure if I could talk about it with anyone in Provo.”
Five years later, Hopper is looking forward to attending a pride festival back down in Provo.
“I’m really excited that there’s a public pride festival in Provo now, considering I didn’t know if I could talk LGBT issues at all when I first came to BYU,” Hopper said. “It’s nice to know that there’s a community and that they’re thriving. I just want to support that.”
Hopper said she hopes the first Provo Pride Festival will get a good response and foster valuable community interaction.
“I hope that people in Provo will get a chance to go down and see what it’s about if they don’t already know, and I hope that they’ll have fun,” Hopper said. “I hope they can increase understanding with the local community about what being LGBT is about, and be able to answer some people’s questions.”
Those making the trip down from Salt Lake can hitch a ride on a party bus of sorts. Check out the Facebook event here. Provo Pride will host an after party for the less family-friendly crowd at The Madison (295 W Center St.) starting at 9 p.m.
The night before the festival, Sept. 20, there will be a Provo Pride Interfaith Meeting at 7 p.m. The meeting will be at Provo Community United Church of Christ and feature music and community speakers.