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    click to enlarge RAY HOWZE
    • Ray Howze

    Visitors and locals alike can rejoice because one of Salt Lake City’s freest and unfettered times of the year—Pride Week—is here.

    To kick off the annual celebration, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Utah Pride Center Executive Director Rob Moolman raised a Pride flag outside the City and County Building on Tuesday, and shared a few thoughts on where the city’s Pride festival stands in Utah’s community.

    “Our queer community has been part of the Utah community forever,” Moolman said, referencing part of this year’s “Exist. Resist. Persist” festival theme. “We are your brothers, your sisters, your uncles and your aunts—our existence is not optional.”

    This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City when members of the LGBTQ community revolted following a police raid. Not surprisingly, the milestone is something on the minds of many festival organizers and attendees this year.

    “I think today, with all of the celebrations and the fun and frivolity, we too often forget that Pride was started as a riot,” Moolman said. “Fifty years ago, the Stonewall riots were really one of those catalytic events that kicked off our current Pride movement.”

    Now usually full of peace and acceptance, Salt Lake City’s Pride festival has turned into a go-to event for members of LGBTQ community, as well as the Utah Pride Center’s biggest fundraiser.

    click to enlarge RAY HOWZE
    • Ray Howze

    “As you come to these festivals year after year, you meet new people who are just coming out and just accepting themselves, and that is a big important step for people to be OK in their own skin,” Biskupski said. “That helps their family, their friends, better understand who they are and become more accepting as time goes by.”

    The festival’s activities are the Pride Center’s biggest fundraisers, but it recently received a boost from someone else. Gov. Gary Herbert’s office announced earlier this month his Suicide Prevention Fund would award sizable grants to the Pride Center as well as Encircle, another organization serving the LGBTQ community. This year also marked the first time the Legislature made substantial progress on hate crimes legislation when it passed Senate Bill 103.

    Those are just some of the latest steps in Utah’s Pride history, something Biskupski recognized when she described one of her first Pride festivals in the city, one that wasn’t nearly as big as today’s.

    “I was just coming out, it was the early ’90s, not a ton of people still, even though we’ve been doing this since 1974,” she recalled. “But we’ve come a long way. Now, we see 50,000 people coming together for the Pride weekend festival.”

    Following the flag raising and proclamation, Pride Week kicks into high gear. The annual Interfaith Service, as well as City Weekly’s 10th annual Miss City Weekly Pride Pageant, happen on Thursday; the third annual Youth Pride Dance on Friday; the festival itself on Saturday and Sunday; and the big parade down 200 South takes place Sunday morning. For a full schedule of events, visit

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