With less than a month to go before the festival gates open, this year’s Utah Pride Festival is already shaping up to be one of the best, said Michael Westley, Media and Special Events Coordinator for the Utah Pride Center, the organization which puts on the yearly event.
“We are very excited for this year’s festival,” said Westley. “There’s been so much great and strong energy in the community this last year with the controversy surrounding the passage of Prop. 8, as well as other political events nationwide. We’re seeing a great amount of energy, and we’re excited to see how that will manifest at his year’s festival.”
At press time, Westley said that over 50 individuals, organizations and groups had signed up to march in the festival’s parade, which will be held Sunday, June 7 at 10:00 a.m. This number also includes entrants from elsewhere in the state, including Idaho and Ogden’s Imperial Court of Northern Utah.
Although Westley said the average number of parade entrants typically falls in the 70s, having 50 several days before the entry deadline on May 15 was good.
“[People at the Center have said] we feel like we’re on track if not a little ahead of schedule,” said Westley noting that several entrants typically sign up on the day of the deadline. So far, several local gay and lesbian bars have signed up to be in the parade as well as political groups such as Equality Utah, the ACLU of Utah, Utahns for Marriage Equality and the state chapter of the Human Rights Campaign. A number of “colorful entertainers” will also return for the parade, including camp drag group the Utah Cyber Sluts and the swimsuit and Speedo-clad members of the Queer Utah Aquatic Club, one of the state’s oldest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender sports groups.
Politicians who have signed up to march include state Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, and Salt Lake City Councilmember J.T. Martin.
“It’s a really nice showing all the way around, and we’re expecting more,” said Westley.
Sponsorship from corporations and local businesses is also strong this year, added Westley, noting that American Express and eBay would also participate in the parade. The online auctioneer’s own gay and lesbian group, the Eagles, also plan on “having a presence in both the festival as well as the parade,” he noted.
The festival itself will feature several attractions that have become favorites among festival-goers, approximately 20,000 of whom attended the three-day event in 2008. These include the return of the Pride in You section. Introduced last year, this part of the festival grounds consists of vendors and organizations focused on health and wellness, such as the Salt Lake Rape Recovery Center, and the Utah AIDS Foundation, which will offer on-site HIV testing on June 6 and 7.
The popular Utah Pride Center members’ garden will also return. This special cordoned-off area for financial supporters of the center aged 21 and over, offers refreshments and cocktails as well as a clear view of the main stage where, as always, a number of talented local and out-of-state musicians and performers will entertain the crowds. This year’s talent roster includes Periodic Table of Funk, the Sister Wives, Debi Graham, Kid Madusa, the Saliva Sisters and Bronwen Beecher (of Celtic rock group the Salty Frogs).
Sunday’s entertainment on the festival’s South Stage is currently scheduled to include Otter Creek, Cody Dew, Sotto Voce, Alicia Faith, DJ Pancho and Honey. Entertainment on the festival’s West/Interactive stage will consist of poetry readings, belly dance lessons by Desert Journey School of Dance, and competitions in karaoke, drag and video games for the Xbox system.
The festival is also putting together a number of favorite and new entries for the festival’s most popular section: the food vendor’s row. According to Westley, entries in this year’s “strong lineup” so far include Thai restaurant Sawadee, The Pie Pizzeria and Jason’s Deli. Westley also noted that the festival is working hard to include a food option for vegans.
“We’ve worked really hard as always to make sure there’s a really strong variety and that the choices that are there are quality,” said Westley.
The festival’s headline entertainer will be comedian Paula Poundstone (who will perform Saturday night on the festival grounds), and the parade’s Grand Marshal will be activist and AIDS quilt creator Cleve Jones, who served as an intern in San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk’s office.
“Our real excitement here is our inclusion of Paula and our Grand Marshal Cleve Jones, who just embodies so much of and has worked so much of his life for change in the area of gay rights as well as human rights for people everywhere,” said Westley. “To have him leading our parade in these political times is significant.”
The deadline for vendor, booth and parade submissions (which can be made online) is May 15. Tickets to the festival, its Grand Marshal Reception and after party and Paula Poundstone’s Saturday evening performance can be purchased online at utahpridefestival.org. An early bird special of $15 for Saturday and Sunday is also currently available.