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Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
The City-County Building, rear, and Library Square were principal venues for Utah Pride Festival events. Organizers called this year's version Utah's biggest yet.

The theme of the 2008 Utah Pride Festival, "Come Together," was in full evidence Sunday as thousands gathered along the event's parade route, and tens of thousands were expected to attend the final day's festivities at the downtown Library Square/Salt Lake City-County Building site.

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker sported a hot-pink feather boa as he led more than 65 floats, marchers and dancers through downtown in a celebration of diversity and a call to tolerance and inclusive community spirit.

Yana Walton, director of communications for the Utah Pride Center, the event's programming body, said this year's version was the biggest yet.

"Last year we had about 25,000 in attendance, and this year we're expecting to far exceed that," Walton said. "We had more groups in the parade, 50 more vendors here at the grounds ... and over 2,700 people went to our concert on Saturday ... way more than last year."

The Utah Pride Center is a group committed to "be a catalyst for personal growth, acceptance and equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Utah."

Walton said success of this year's event was due to a growing GLBT community in Utah, and a higher energy level brought on by issues surrounding the presidential election year. She also noted the recent Utah legislative approval of a Salt Lake City mutual commitment registry and the lifting of a ban on gay marriage in California have contributed to an enthusiastic environment.

"It is a huge reason to celebrate," Walton said. "Speaking for myself, personally, it gives us something to hope for."

Sunday's gathering was a mix of entertainment, food, politics and community involvement. Local and state political candidates were present, as well as outreach and education groups. The statewide political advocacy group, Equality Utah, was registering voters as part of their People's House Project. Executive Director Mike Thompson said in addition to registering new voters, the group was asking for a commitment from the registerees to get to the polls in November.

"We're here to remind people that what happens in government is about the people," Thompson said. "We're focusing on voter registration, voter education and get out the vote efforts."

Local and national musical acts performed on two stages and dozens of local eateries provided food and refreshments.


E-mail: araymond@desnews.com