Thousands celebrate diversity, individuality at Utah Pride Festival

Published: Sunday, June 5 2011 2:34 p.m. MDT

Actress Roseanne Barr, a Salt Lake City native, who was the Pride Parade's Grand Marshall, waves to the crowd in Salt Lake City, Sunday, June 5, 2011.

James Young, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Thousands of parade-goers lined downtown streets Sunday.

And Pioneer Day is still more than a month away.

With exactly 100 entries, this year's Utah Pride Parade rivals the number of participants in the state's largest parade — the Days of '47.

The annual parade is the highlight event of the Utah Pride Festival, a celebration of diversity and individuality that between Saturday and Sunday is expected to attract 30,000-plus people to Washington Square.

"We've been consistently breaking records this entire festival," said Marina Gomberg, spokeswoman for the Utah Pride Center — a community-based support, advocacy and outreach organization for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The number of participants in the parade, along with the thousands of spectators who spanned nine city blocks — mostly along 200 South, shows just how far the festival has come since its small and mostly secretive gatherings in the mid-'80s.

"Remember when all we did is march around Temple Square?" Becky Moss, parade emcee and a longtime advocate for LGBT rights, asked the crowd.

More than 20,000 people attended last year's Utah Pride Festival, a number that organizers and attendees say shows increasing acceptance and support of LGBT people and others with diverse lifestyles.

"Salt Lake City is changing," said Ogden resident Ian MacDonald, who watched the parade from a shady spot along 200 South. "It's nice to see people accepting each other for who they are."

"It's just fun," said Stephanie Scott, of Sandy. "Everybody's friendly and nice to each other. It doesn't matter who you are."

The party atmosphere Sunday essentially turned the parade route into a giant block party. And aside from the handful of protesters holding anti-gay signs on one street corner, the two-hour parade was filled with cheering, dancing and people wearing just about anything and everything — and sometimes next to nothing.

"I come to see the freaks and geeks," Scott said, "and I'm one of them."

Drag queens marched along city streets in high heels, rode bicycles and waved from the back of trucks. The Dykes on Bikes motorcycle club roared along the parade route. Men in Speedos and women in bikinis danced to Lady Gaga's "Born This Way."

And there were lots and lots of rainbow flags — including one that stretched an entire city block.

Roseanne Barr, a Salt Lake City native, served as grand marshal of this year's parade. Television cameras followed the comic and actress as she waved to the crowd from the back of a convertible, filming an upcoming reality show.

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and county Mayor Peter Corroon joined in the fun, as did hundreds of people representing businesses, schools and charitable organizations.

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com, Twitter: jaredpage

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