LGBTQ artists and makers who previously set up shop at the annual Utah Pride Festival expressed frustration this week over an increase in booth prices for this year’s event.
But officials later this week clarified that the price increase wasn’t as steep as it seemed, attributing the mixup to miscommunication.
On Tuesday, artist Summer Falkenrath, owner of the “micro” business FalkenCraft, posted on Instagram that the Utah Pride Center’s 2023 booth prices were “tripling.” The festival is currently slated for June 1-4.
“We’re baffled and heartbroken about it,” Falkenrath wrote, expressing concern in the post that the apparent surge in cost stood to price out local queer business owners and lead to a Pride event “full of corporations.”
Last year, Falkenrath’s post stated, artisans and small business owners had paid between $450 and $550 for a 10-foot-by-10-foot booth at the festival.
This year, the price for a booth of the same size is now listed as $1,500 for all vendors who apply before April 29, and $2,000 for vendors who apply after that date, according to the Utah Pride Center’s website.
The website notes that nonprofits, schools, churches and government entities will instead be charged a discounted price of $750 for applications received before April 29, and $1,000 for applications received after that date.
According to Falkenrath’s 2022 vendor application, which they provided to The Salt Lake Tribune, Falkenrath paid $400 as a business owner for a 10-foot-by-10-foot space within a larger tent that was shared with other festival vendors. That’s why Falkenrath reported on Instagram this week that prices appeared to have tripled.
But Rosa Bandeirinha, the communications director for the Utah Pride Center, told The Tribune on Wednesday that last year’s booth prices ranged from $450 for nonprofits to $1,200 for businesses.
Bandeirinha further clarified Thursday that Falkenrath paid $400 for their vendor space in 2022 because it was located in a shared space with other artists.
“If people this year want to organize with other vendors and make an application, they can also do that, and it will be a cheaper option as well,” Bandeirinha said.
“We share everyone’s frustrations about the cost increases,” Bandeirinha said of booth pricing, adding that the nonprofit’s operation costs have “gone up exponentially.”
“And this is a very expensive festival to put up,” Bandeirinha continued. “So that’s part of why it’s also such a high-quality event that so many people get to enjoy.”
Even though it’s pricey, the festival marks the nonprofit’s biggest source of revenue, Bandeirinha said. “So we need to make sure that our organization can sustain all the costs of putting up the festival. And most importantly, that we can run our programs that are free, all year-round without financial collapse.”
Why not increase ticket prices?
Falkenrath’s Instagram post Tuesday included a screenshot of an email from another Utah Pride Center staffer, which caused further confusion — and frustration.
In the email, Ted Nicholls, director of operations and special events for the Center, was apparently responding to an inquiry Falkenrath had made about increased booth pricing.
In his response, Nicholls cited nationwide inflation, concluding with, “At this time we are only offering financial assistance for nonprofit organizations.”
The response angered many in the local LGBTQ business community.
“This is nothing more than another greedy money grab and way to push out artists, to make room for major corporations,” said Lauren Lomprey, owner of The Doodling Nomad and a past vendor at the Utah Pride Festival.
But Bandeirinha clarified on Thursday that certain businesses can also receive a discounted rate, similar to nonprofits, and said Nicholls was mistaken in saying otherwise.
Bandeirinha pointed to a line on the Utah Pride Festival’s website that states, “If you or your organization need financial assistance to participate in this year’s Pride, please email us.”
The “you” in that line can apply to business owners, Bandeirinha said.
As Falkenrath’s Instagram post gained traction online, staffers removed Nicholls’ email address from the Utah Pride Festival webpage because he was on the receiving end of “so much rage,” Bandeirinha said. The webpage now directs people to contact email@example.com for festival inquiries.
“It’s sad that we had to do that, but we protect our staff,” Bandeirinha said.
In comments on social media, some questioned why the nonprofit wouldn’t increase ticket prices instead of vendor prices to help mitigate costs.
“I would personally much rather pay a slightly higher entrance fee knowing that there would actually be queer artists and small businesses inside,” Rachel Loose, who isn’t a vendor but is queer, told The Tribune.
According to Bandeirinha, the Utah Pride Center didn’t want ticket sales to go up “so that everyone can still participate in the festival.”
The Utah Pride Center continues to contemplate alternative solutions, Bandeirinha said.
“We just want to make sure that our festival creates more opportunities to the Center,” they continued. “And that also small queer businesses have community spaces to sell their products. So we’re trying to make sure that everybody is included in the work that we do.”
In the meantime, small business owners can apply for financial assistance for vending space at the festival by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.