Pride Festival Adds Dance Stage, Trans March, More

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A revamped dance stage, a civil rights history exhibit and three hours of children’s programming are just some of the new additions coming to the 2010 Utah Pride Festival, said Michael Westley, Media & Special Events Coordinator of the Utah Pride Center, the organization that puts on the annual festival.

One of the biggest changes, said Westley, is how the three stages on the Washington Square festival grounds will be run. This year, the main North stage will not experience any gaps in programming as it has in the past between the tear down and set up for each band or act.

“All of our programming on the main stage this year will be emceed,” he said. “It’s all hosted to be one long, continuous show [rather than] band on, band off.”

The Sunday program includes such acts as singer Angie Evans, past and present members of the Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire, a local burlesque troupe and the  DC Cowboys — a group of “dancing, shirtless cowboys” from the nation’s capitol who are a favorite at many U.S. Pride Festivals. Also on the schedule is Ichantzinco Tlaloc, a group of Aztec dancers whose half hour show Westley hopes will particularly appeal to members of the Hispanic community.

“We felt it was very important to have something in the program for our Latin and Mexican communities,” he said. “This is a really cool piece to this too, because these dances were all the Aztecs were able to keep when Christianity swept through [their lands]. To have that kind of cultural heritage be displayed here is important, because it’s indicative of the same drive for rights we have today.”

In between acts, actors from the Salt Lake Acting Company will be performing short skits and pieces and “paying homage to our sponsors.”

New sponsors will also be giving the South Stage a makeover. This year, local clubs like Sound and JAM will host parties on this traditionally eclectic stage where festival-goers can dance the day away. Here, Effen Vodka will also sponsor a vodka bar, thus christening the stage with its company name.

“One criticism we’ve had for so long, especially from gay men, is that they want a cocktail and they want to dance,” said Westley. “[The change in the programming for the stage] is also important for a couple reasons. This is community building at its most basic — going into our community and inviting those establishments that have regular contact with the [gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender] community into the festival.” In this case, he added, promotion for the clubs and the festival “goes both ways.”

The festival’s East Stage has been renamed the Café Stage and will feature local acoustic artists. Often in the past, this has been an open mic venue, featuring everything from local musicians to performance poets.
But the festival’s stages aren’t the only new things. In place of FAMILIES … It’s All Relative, an exhibit featuring photographs of families of all sexual orientations and gender identities, the grounds will host an exhibit on the history of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights movement in the U.S. The large time line, which a committee of Utah Pride Center volunteers has designed and is now building,

“We love the family photo exhibit and the way it shows traditional and non-traditional families coming together, but this year we felt we’d like to use that space with a historical teaching piece,” said Westley, who noted that the exhibit fits with the theme of this year’s festival: Our History, Our Future.

“It’s meant to highlight how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go,” he added. Additionally, the exhibit will commemorate the 41st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which are credited with launching the modern gay rights movement. However, Westley stressed that the exhibit — a largely pictorial display of “events, people and places” — will also touch on the history of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the U.S. before 1969.

In keeping with this educational focus, the festival will also screen Beyond Gay — The Politics of Pride before the festival weekend opens. This feature-length documentary by Ken Coolen, the parade director of the Vancouver Pride Society, explores the development of Pride in nations around the world where Pride celebrations are met with hostility from authorities or protestors, including Colombo, Sri Lanka and Moscow, Russia.

“This is an eye-opening piece that really shows the history of the Gay Pride movement both nationally and internationally,” said Westley. “It shows the struggle that some people in some countries are doing just to be able to have a Gay Pride. There are communities in other countries that are mobbed by the opposition. They fear for their lives just to be able to walk as openly gay people in the streets.”

“We do live in a relative blanket of comfort and security here despite the struggles we’re having while working for full equality,” he added. “This is about having some perception.”

Also added to the festival will be two Saturday events: Pride Day 5K, a race held in partnership with Wasatch Area Race Productions, and Family Hour. The latter is actually three hours of programming (from 5–7 p.m.) on the Café Stage for festival goers and their 12 and under children. A Transgender March will also join the Dyke March and Pride Interfaith March

“There’s a lot of excitement around this,” said Westley.

Above all, Westley said that the 2010 Utah Pride Festival was trying to have “something for everyone.”

“All of our programming throughout the entire weekend is meant to be more inclusive for everyone,” he said.

For more information about the Utah Pride Festival, visit utahpridefestival.org.

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