SALT LAKE CITY — Downtown Salt Lake City donned its rainbow colors Sunday for the 44th annual Utah Pride Parade.
Tens of thousands turned out for the event that celebrates love and unity between the LGBTQ community and supporters.
"It's Pride. … We have to come out. This is our day to celebrate who we are and just celebrate being accepted more and more in Utah," Larry Herndon said while watching the parade go by.
"This is kind of our day, our weekend. We're here, you know, and we're quiet for 363 days," Ross Owen added. "This is our tribe."
He said one of the things that meant the most was seeing all the support of the straight community show up as well.
The diverse crowd included all ages and orientations, many of those both in the parade and watching it sporting rainbow attire, costumes and carrying balloons. Police officers passed out rainbow stickers along the long line of viewers spanning 200 South.
Matt Difrancesca, who attended with his family, said, "This is the first of many years of raising our child to learn to love everybody, and to be loved by everybody. In this political climate, I think it's the most important thing."
He said his family plans on returning to the parade "year after year after year."
Dozens of companies and organizations marched in the parade, representing a variety of backgrounds. Marchers showed off an array of costumes, from ballgowns to "Star Wars" apparel. Each group was met with excited cheers and waves.
Many viewers expressed that they were there to support their LGBTQ friends and family members.
"My friend is bisexual and we do have two gay besties, so we're here just to support them," said Jasmine Lorocca, who was there with a group of friends.
Among the same group, Riley Kroening, who was there with Everett Hyde, said he feels welcome in Utah.
"It's quite an accepting area to my knowledge. I mean, sometimes when we're out in public we find some dirty looks and stuff like that. But other than that, it's nothing really that I know of."
Hyde explained, "Since it's such … an LDS population here, it's kind of like hard to come out. But honestly, since I did, it's been awesome. Everyone's been so accepting of it."
Others also explained that they feel Utah has generally become more accepting in recent years.
"The parade was great," said Morgan Lim, a marcher with the Utah AIDS Foundation. "It was so nice to see such a good reception from everyone. This year I was our little parade marshal thing, so I was in the front. … I could just feel the energy from everyone, and it was really nice."
That supportive turnout "means a lot. It means that we have the community here that is celebrating us, and celebrating LGBT existence and everything that that entails. … It was so evident that our presence was appreciated, and so I really like that," Lim said.
He called it "providence" that Sunday provided beautiful weather for the marchers and paradegoers.
Andy Anderson, a marcher with the Rebel Legion, a "Star Wars" charity group, explained why he's returned to the parade for years. "It's a community of people coming together to celebrate everybody's individual uniqueness — and yet their willingness to come together and support one another," he said.
For the Bonella family, it's a chance to celebrate unity.
"We wanted to show off that we are allies for these groups. I'm a social worker and professor with Weber State, and I wanted to show off our involvement and support," Barrett Bonella said. "I think the best part of it is how it celebrates love in general and the importance that has in the community."
"The importance of acceptance," his wife, Giovanna Bonella, added. They brought their three kids.
"On top of that, I think it brings the community together in a way that is kind of out of the norm, but still provides kind of a sense of meeting that need, meeting the need that we have for community," Barrett Bonella said.
Spencer Calloway, who also attended with his family, said, "I'm from Seattle, and I walked in the parade up there every year." In Salt Lake's parade, there were "a lot more people than I thought," he said.
Among the parade's thousands of marchers, many held signs indicating they were there to support a gay child.
For the Indish family, that chance to see others' support makes a difference.
"Well, I'm nonbinary, my (brother) is trans and pan. It's just for Pride, it's so wonderful to see so many people being themselves. And haters are gonna hate, but we're just gonna keep loving each other. We all love each other, everyone's so nice," Kit Indish explained.
Indish’s father, Jason Indish, is part of Dragon Dads, an organization for fathers with LGBT children. "This Pride actually shows them that, hey, there's people here that are accepting of who you are instead of, like, you're a bad person," he said. "So this is something for them to feel that positivity and see that not everything is as ugly as it seems."37 comments on this story
Seeing the parade grow within the past four years the family has attended helps him understand that "there are more people that are becoming more accepting," Indish said.
Rob Page, who marched with the group Mormons Building Bridges, also said he was there for his daughter.
"I feel a lot of love toward the LGBT community. My daughter is gay, and I think that we just need to love more and show more compassion and respect and I just want to be a small part. I want to be a small part of that effort," Page said.