It’s a music festival and a parade, an art show and a political demonstration all wrapped up in one big rainbow flag.
The Utah Pride Festival, now in its 40th year, expands into Library Square this year, and its accompanying parade received so many entries that organizers had to turn down two dozen groups.
"Salt Lake loves its gay people," said Matthew Landis, who is in charge of organizing the entertainment for this weekend’s festivities centered around the City and County Building in downtown Salt Lake City and the library across the street.
The festival gates open Saturday at 3 p.m. and will include for the first time free movies at the library, a spoken word stage for comedians and poets and an expanded area for people selling art. The parade starts Sunday morning at 10 a block east of Library Square. It ends six blocks later at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
The first float will carry the parade’s grand marshals, who this year are the six plaintiffs in Utah’s Amendment 3 case, which is now before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Last December, Federal District Judge Robert Shelby struck down Utah’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage starting a 17-day period in which same-sex couples could get legally hitched. That ended when the Supreme Court issued a stay pending an appeal by the state. Utah’s political leaders are also fighting against recognizing the more than 1,000 same-sex couples who rushed to get married. Many of those couples are expected to walk next to a massive marriage equality float that will follow the grand marshals.
"Our community right now is as strong or stronger than it has ever been," said John Netto, chairman of the board of the Utah Pride Center. "We have so much commitment from our people that we cannot fail."
The festival costs $10 at the gate, and organizers anticipate more than 30,000 people will attend by the end of the weekend, making the pride festival one of the state’s largest parties. It’s expected to be a sunny, hot weekend, with temperatures getting into the mid-80s during the day and dropping into the high 50s at night.
While the recent court rulings in Utah and elsewhere dominate much of the conversation, leaders of the Utah Pride Center say they want the festivities to remain a broader celebration of the LGBT community and its supporters.
"As we reach out with love, we get love in return," said Netto. "This movement has always been about reaching people with love."
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