“The Boy Scouts came up with the idea, I just made it more colorful,” Lucas Horns once said to QSaltLake Magazine when he first brought his brainchild to fruition. “I love the sense of community and camaraderie in the Boy Scouts when they put their flags out. I knew the same rallying could happen with the LGBT community.”
Started three years ago with about 500 flags staked in donors’ yards as a celebration of Utah Pride, Project Rainbow has since blossomed, reaching all corners of the state and expanded to transgender awareness as well.
Project Rainbow is a group of volunteers that takes orders for rainbow flags to be staked in residential yards and front of businesses. Apartment dwellers may have a flag as well to put in their windows. They are then gathered up and used for the next LGBTQ event. Proceeds from the $15 fee are donated to the local Pride or transgender charity.
The group made an additional 3,000 flags in September, all of which have been reserved for Salt Lake City area yards.
On the last two weekends of September, they drove down to St. George, Utah to stake flags in the southern part of the state. This basically replaced Southern Utah Pride, which was canceled because of a spike in Coronavirus cases in the region.
Flags will also be staked in Utah County the weekend of Sept. 26–27 in celebration of the Provo Pride Motorcade. (See the Qmmunity page for information.)
Transgender flags were staked in August for Utah Transgender Pride and will be once again for Transgender Day of Remembrance in November.
Through the year, organizers say they will likely stake over 4,000 flags.
“We’ll raise over $50,000 this year to be distributed to various non-profits like Utah Pride Center, Logan Pride, etc.” Horns said. “Last year we raised a little over $30,000 and the first year it was just shy of $8,000.”
And it takes a village to make it happen.
“I assume we have about 60 volunteers,” organizer and volunteer extraordinaire Dallas Rivas said. “We took about 16 to 18 hours over three days to make the new flags, plus about six hours of preparation the day before to gather supplies at Home Depot and load them into a trailer.”
“Dallas especially has put in more work to Project Rainbow than anyone. It would not function without him,” said Horns.
“My favorite thing about the project is seeing families coming together to pick up flags to stake them,” Rivas said. “Parents of LGBTQ youth supporting them and bonding while they distribute the flags.”
For Horns, Project Rainbow is about reaching small towns — those miles away from any Pride events.
“There’s a house in Veyo, Utah that gets a flag each year for Southern Utah Pride. Staking that flag for the first year was a pretty surreal experience. Veyo has a population of about 500, and under any other circumstances, I would have only been there to drive through it. But here I was planting a big rainbow flag on their Main Street,” Horns said. “It was a profound realization for me that LGBTQ people and their allies exist everywhere.”
“That’s what I love about this project. It helps queer people find each other where they least expect it. I love hearing from participants in Eagle Mountain or Layton or Spanish Fork who thought they were alone in their neighborhood until they got a flag and suddenly made friends with like-minded neighbors they never knew existed,” Horns said. “Don’t get me wrong, the hundreds of flags we stake in Sugar House is amazing, but it’s the flags we stake on the fringe that’s making the biggest impact.”
Asked why they think it’s important to place the flags across the state, the pair each talked about love.
“As a trans person, it feels amazing to stake trans flags and be visible,” Rivas said. It touches my heart to be able to take part in the Transgender Day of Remembrance Memorial at the Salt Lake City-County Building in November to honor the victims who have lost their lives due to transphobia. It is a lot of hard physical work but the most meaningful. And as a gay male, I love my rainbow. I am proud to see these flags everywhere. It’s empowering to feel Equality. Gay people are busting at the seams looking to be proud during the lack of all pride festivals.
“I love Utah and I love defying the stereotypes of Utah,” Horns said. “Staking these flags shows the world that Utah is a place of love. And for me personally, it’s more than affirming to see my home state embrace my community.”