Thousands gather for annual Utah Pride Parade

Utahns gather to celebrate Pride Month during the Pride Parade as it passes through Downtown in Salt Lake City on Sunday.
Utahns gather to celebrate Pride Month during the Pride Parade as it passes through Downtown in Salt Lake City on Sunday. | Marielle Scott, Deseret News

They cheered, they partied, they danced, they sang.

Parents pushed strollers, kids with colored chalk decorated sidewalks and most everybody swayed to the omnipresent dance music amid a sea of rainbow flags. Male couples, female couples and mixed couples walked hand-in-hand. Underlying the raucous mood of Sunday's Utah Pride Parade in downtown Salt Lake City, though, was a consistent message.

"There's still a lot of work that needs to be done" in the fight for the rights of the LGBTQ community, said Alaria Sorensen of Sunset, at the parade with a group of friends. The show of force by members of the LGBTQ community and their advocates, though, "shows we matter, we exist."

Troy Leonhardt of Logan was there, watching the parade from a folding chair with friends along 100 South.

"I'm bi so I thought I should come support," he said. "Almost now more than ever, we need to show support, especially (for) the trans people, what they're going through. Love's the key. Love's the answer."

John Northup of Logan helped carry the banner in the parade for Rainbow Classics of Utah, a car club. The parade, he said, is a way of showing unity. It can be tough being a member of the LGBTQ community, he said, "but events like this, they make it seem a little easier, let us know we're not alone."

The parade — with marchers coming from the LGBTQ, corporate, government, nonprofit and other sectors — comes at the start of Pride month, June, and stands out as perhaps the premiere Pride event in Utah. Utah Pride Center officials, the organizers, were expecting a crowd of around 100,000 and perhaps 50,000 at the parallel Utah Pride Festival, held Saturday and Sunday at Washington Square Park outside the Salt Lake City-County Building.

Spectators watch as marchers in the Utah Pride Parade in Salt Lake City on Sunday pass by. | Tim Vandenack, KSL.com
Spectators watch as marchers in the Utah Pride Parade in Salt Lake City on Sunday pass by. | Tim Vandenack, KSL.com

While focused on advocacy for the LGBTQ community, though, spectators to Sunday's parade came from a range of backgrounds.

Kennyn Roybal of Herriman came with her mother-in-law and two daughters, ages 17 and 8. This year's installment of the parade was her 10th.

"I just love to bring them out and show them what love is all about. I think everybody should come out and experience it at least once," she said. "Open-mindedness is the way of the future. You start young."

Like Leonhardt and Sorensen, she said more needs to be done in the fight for the rights of the LGBTQ community. "Any opportunity to show our ally support — I'm here for it," she said.

Bob Gillie of Ogden watched from a shaded area along 400 East, a rainbow flag affixed to his wheelchair. He has 10 kids, he said, and their sexual orientations vary. "We need to be human, and we need to treat each other like humans. We all have the right to live, love and laugh with whoever we choose," he said.

Utahns gather to celebrate Pride Month during the Pride Parade as it passes through Downtown in Salt Lake City on Sunday. | Marielle Scott, Deseret News
Utahns gather to celebrate Pride Month during the Pride Parade as it passes through Downtown in Salt Lake City on Sunday. | Marielle Scott, Deseret News

One man walked the parade route, saying to anyone close enough to hear him that homosexuality runs afoul of Christianity. By and large, though, the parade tone was overwhelmingly pro-LGBTQ and celebratory. People in some of the homes lining the route held parties and gatherings. A percussion group parked in a spot along the route, providing beats to those in the parade and spectators.

Others lounged in grassy areas, watching parade marchers go by, including Maridalia Perez, there with a contingent as a show of support to the LGBTQ members of their friend group.

“I think it’s important to realize love is all around,” she said.