One of Utah’s biggest stars has come home to be grand marshal of what’s being billed as Utah’s biggest-ever Pride Festival.
“I’m very thrilled to be here,” said Roseanne Barr, the star of the 1988-1997 sitcom “Roseanne.” “To come home and see Salt Lake City the way I always hoped it would be.”
Barr has never been shy about her feelings toward the place she grew up. She once referred to the local population as the “Nazi Amish,” although she later said she regretted saying that.
“I didn’t like the kind of push for uniformity here,” Barr said. “I always felt left out by it. A lot of rejection. A lot of meanness. I hoped someday that would change, and it has.”
Perhaps that is exemplified in this weekend’s Utah Pride Festival, which is on track to be the biggest ever.
According to Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center, last year’s festival drew 25,000 people, “a record that’s waiting to be broken.”
“And for the first time ever, our parade will surpass the Days of ’47 in size” with more than 100 entries, Larabee said to a thunderous ovation from the crowd at the Pride Festival’s grand marshal reception Friday night at the I.J. and Jeanné Wagner Jewish Community Center.
“The gay community holds a special place in my heart,” Barr said. “Most of you probably know that my sister and my brother are both gay, and it was not so easy for them to grow up here.
“Nor was it easy for me being a loud-mouth girl with a lot of opinions.”
Barr was also on hand to honor her brother, Ben Barr — the executive director of the Contra Costa County (California) Rainbow Community Center and a former Utah AIDS Foundation leader — who received the Utah Pride Center’s lifetime achievement award.
At 58, Roseanne Barr may have mellowed a bit. She can still get big laughs, but offstage she’s quiet and thoughtful. And she’s changed her mind about her hometown.
“It definitely feels different than it did when I grew up here,” Barr said. “I feel so proud of Salt Lake City. That it has become such a progressive place. That it has become a place where people can speak out and have a different opinion. I just think that’s so great.”
Which is not to say that she doesn’t still make a few jokes about her hometown.
“Boy, my family stuck out like a sore thumb,” she told the crowd. “We only had the one mother.”
And, in addition to riding in Sunday’s Gay Pride Parade as grand marshal, Barr will appear at a “rally for equality” at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on the festival’s main stage.
“I’ve got a lot to say about everything that’s f-ed up about this place,” she said.
9 a.m. • Pride Day 5K begins
2 p.m. • Pride Interfaith Service at First United Methodist Church, 203 S. 200 East
3 p.m. • Dyke march/Transgender march begins at the Capitol
4 p.m. • Opening ceremonies, corner of 400 S. 200 East
4-7 p.m. • Kids carnival at Washington Square
6:30 p.m. • Grand marshal: comic and Utah native Roseanne Barr, North Main Stage
8 p.m. • Headliner: Kat DeLuna on North Main Stage
9 p.m. • Club music dance party on North Main Stage
11 p.m. • Festival gates close
8:30 a.m. • Parade lineup begins
10 a.m. • Utah Pride Parade
11 a.m. • Festival gates open at Washington Square
Noon • Entertainment begins on festival stages; featured act: Justin Utley on East Cafe Stage
4 p.m. • Headliner act: Exposé on North Main Stage
7 p.m. • Festival closes