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So. Utah Pride to Go Virtual?

In 2009, organizers of the Southern Utah Pride Festival announced that the popular celebration would go on hiatus to give the committee time to rest and to focus on building a Pride Center in St. George.

Sadly, one year later the festival’s hiatus has gone from temporary to indefinite. According to Chris McArdle, former president of the corporation behind the festival, the festival board has essentially dissolved, and the event itself has “pretty much shut down.”

But McArdle was quick to add that pride itself has not shut down in Southern Utah. Currently, he said he is at work on creating a website that gay and transgender-friendly organizations in the area (and elsewhere in the state) can use to announce their events and stay in touch.

McArdle registered the domain name (which currently leads to a bare bones page) and plans on launching the site with a small grant from a New York City-based foundation that contributed to the Southern Utah Pride Festival.

“[The site is] kind of acting as our community center that hasn’t seemed to come into fruition,” he said. “It’s from Southern Utah and linking us together as one entity rather than many entities that can’t seem to pull their weight alone.”

When fully up and running, the site will contain a calendar of community events from around the state, which can be added by any groups that ask for and obtain special posting accounts. McArdle mentioned Southern Utah’s PFLAG chapter as an example.

“[PFLAG president] Claudia [Bradshaw] could log in and write about the meeting instead of calling a bunch of people to let them know it’s happening,” he said. He also said that the site will allow individuals to register accounts to comment on events.

Although the Southern Utah Pride Festival won’t be happening this year, McArdle said that he hopes it will open its doors again someday. In the meantime, he said that SUP, Inc. is still a viable corporation, and the “little bit of money” left over from festivals past is waiting in a bank account managed by a former board member. All the community needs, he said, is for an interested person to step forward who can demonstrate the “interest, ability and action” to help organize the festival again.

“It can be anybody and once they show themselves deserving,” he said. “But so far, not one person has stepped forward.”

He noted, however, that the festival had gone a long way in helping gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Southern Utah be visible.

“It’s no longer a small town. Gay people aren’t willing to hide in Washington County anymore and that’s a cool thing,” he said. “The whole premise [of Southern Utah Pride] was if we could save one person’s life, we did our job. I know we put couples together and there’s a lot of stories.

“That’s the cool thing about these events: you never know,” he continued. “You save one kid’s life and he goes off to cure cancer. You don’t know how you’re affecting history.”

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