The organization behind Southern Utah’s annual pride day celebration has announced that it is well into making plans and preparations for this year’s festival, to be held Sept. 26 and 27 in Springdale City Park.
“The new board has broken off into subcommittees and is meeting regularly,” said Southern Utah Pride Association, Inc. president Chris McArdle. “We’re just working to make connections within the community. I’m trying to bridge the relationship with all the organizations here and let everyone know that we’re all helping each other.”
Although McArdle served as director of last year’s Southern Utah Pride at Zion festival, this year he has stepped down to work exclusively on marketing for the event. This year Janine Isom has stepped up to serve as pride director. Already, Isom has said she and the rest of this year’s board members have met with Springsdale officials to “make sure the event is run smoothly.”
Right now, Isom said she and the board are updating the festival’s Web site to allow volunteers, vendors and sponsors to sign up online, instead of having to print out forms as they did last year. She also said that she and the board are putting together a volunteer coordination program to streamline volunteer recruitment and assignment.
“We want to put a more structured system there to go out and get volunteers and make sure they get where they need to go on time,” she said.
Like McArdle, Isom also said she and the board want to help unite the community by encouraging the diverse number of non-profit groups in Southern Utah to participate, including the Washington County HIV/AIDS Task Force, Community Counseling of Southern Utah, the local chapter of Parents Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and Dixie State College’s Diversity Club to name only a few.
“We have a lot of organizations that work hard for community, and we want to help utilize festival as their platform to tell what they do for community and to get exposure for what they do,” she said.
Isom and McArdle also said they hope to make this year’s festival the biggest one yet. In 2007, McArdle said his goal was to have 1,000 attendees.
“Everyone thought I was insane!” he laughed. Ultimately, the Festival sold 1,013 wristbands.
Isom’s goal is even more ambitious. This year, she would like to see Southern Utah Pride draw 5,000 attendees to the resort town just outside of Zion National Park.
“We’ve reserved the OC Tanner Amphitheatre this year, and we’re really excited about that,” said Isom. “We’re going to move the closing event there to accommodate more people and to have a little more professional presentation of the big show.”
She added that a number of last year’s entertainers have already expressed interest in returning, including beloved Northern Utah drag queen Nova Starr and the local drag performers behind the Kim & Larry drag show.
“We’re also going to try and get some celebrities to come – but of course that’s talk at this point,” said Isom. “But at least [our entertainment committee] is putting that out there and seeing what we can put together.”
Isom also said that she wants this year’s festival to offer more programming for children, especially given the number of families with kids who attend each year. To make the event even more appealing to parents and their children, Isom also said they plan to clearly differentiate between programming for adults and programming that is appropriate for all ages.
“We want to encourage day events for children and families with children and come night time the content goes a bit more mature,” she explained, adding that more adult-oriented programs such as the Kim & Larry Drag Show would be housed in the O.C. Tanner Amphitheatre.
Ultimately, Isom and McArdle said they hope that the Festival will draw enough interest from locals and out-of-towners to help them build a community center for Southern Utah’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender population. To advance this goal, the Southern Utah Pride Association will hold five fundraisers between April and September.
“We want to produce enough money to get that project started,” said Isom.
Scheduled to be held April 26, May 17, June 21, July 12 and Aug. 16, the fundraisers will include two dance parties (a singles’ prom and a masquerade ball), a Rocky Horror Picture Show costume party and a drag show. Isom said she and the board have not yet determined the events that will happen on each date, but that she thinks the fundraisers will get more elaborate as Southern Utah Pride approaches.
“We’re thinking about doing something smaller for one of these, like a car wash,” she said. “I’m thinking that’ll be for the April 26 date. That gets us started getting us to do what we needed to do.”
McArdle said he wants to see the community center get built because it would “really pull the community together.”
“PFFLAG could meet there, all the groups could meet there,” he said. “It would support these kids who come out and let them know that there are resources available to them.”
For more information about this year’s Southern Utah Pride Festival at Zion, visit southernutahpride.org.