Organizers of the Provo Pride Festival say they’ve shown the naysayers.
“Everyone said we couldn’t do it,” said event planner Tosh Metzger. “For years they said we couldn’t do it down here: ‘Who would go to Provo?’ It was kind of a hiss and a byword.”
Even people in the LGBT community doubted how viable a Pride event could be in Utah County.
But Metzger says that after two years, and a third just weeks away, Provo’s LGBT community has pulled together to create a successful Pride celebration.
“We’ve found our voice,” Metzger says.
Provo Pride is Sept. 19, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., at Memorial Park in Provo, and Metzger expects the event to continue to grow the way it did its first two years.
“The first year had 27 booths, and about 4,500 people,” Metzger, who was one of the founders that first year, said. “Last year we had 8,000 people and 61 booths. This year, we’re expecting 10,000.”
Not bad, especially since people who attend have to forego the drinking of alcohol — it’s against Provo City ordinances to have alcohol in the park.
And that’s okay, Metzger says, going so far as to say that they don’t even want alcohol at their event.
After all, it is Utah County, and Metzger and others know what they’re dealing with.
“We know our market down here. We know what we can get away with. We know which buttons we can push,” he says. “Provo’s brand is family-friendly, old-fashioned, free. We know our brand. Let’s do what we’re good at.”
So far it’s worked, Metzger says, judging from the festival’s growth the first two years.
The festival gets underway with a kick-off party at City Limits Tavern — where alcohol will be served — on Sept. 18 from 8 p.m.-2 a.m. DJ Bad Kitty will be spinning the music.
The festival itself will feature food booths, information booths, arts-and-craft booths and the like. In keeping with the “family-friendly” nature, there will be a kids area with bounce houses, glitter tattoos and other fun stuff for the little ones.
Entertainment will be provided by an assortment of acts including local bands; the all-volunteer, all-adult cheer squad, Cheer Salt Lake; and two drag troupes: a local one (the Divine Sister-Misters), and Caravan of Glam out of Portland, OR, who folks might have seen on America’s Got Talent.
Events at the park will be followed by an after party, also at City Limits Tavern, from 9 p.m.-2 a.m.
Though, admittedly, Provo’s particular style of Pride may not be many people’s cup of decaffeinated tea, it does have its fans. The Annual International Affirmation Conference is being held in Provo, Sept. 17-20 precisely in order to align with Provo Pride, Metzger said. (Affirmation is a support organization for LGBT Mormons and their families, friends and church leaders.)
“They chose Provo just because of Provo Pride. We’re happy about that,” Metzger said.
Metzger said being gay and out and proud in Utah County has its own quirks. For instance, there’s “Family Homo Evening.” And on Aug. 16, Provo Pride sponsored the “Righteous Miss Provo” Pageant.
“We’re playing on the words of our culture. We make fun of our culture, but also keep it sensitive. I think it furthers our message,” Metzger said.
That, too, seems to be working. By staying sensitive to the predominant religious/social culture, that culture may be becoming more sensitive to the LGBT “counter” culture in return.
One sign of that?
“We’re having a lot more businesses downtown hang flags during Pride week,” Metzger said.