Provo Pride Festival aims to educate and celebrate

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Mormons Building Bridges and USGA, a BYU ally group not formally recognized by its university, set up shop about 15 yards away from each other at the Provo Pride festival. These types of groups and resource centers represent the unique face of Provo Pride — a festival reflective of both universal LGBT issues and the challenges members of the community face in a religious area.

The festival, which took place Saturday, Sept. 15 at the Utah County Historic Courthouse Grounds in downtown Provo, capped off a week of events that aimed to “create a place … for people to feel safe and to feel welcome,” according to Provo Pride board of trustee member Roni Jo Draper.

About 50 vendors and organizations participated in the festival, including UVU’s own LGBT Student Services.

RevaBeth Russel, 70, Giving away free hugs at Provo Pride.

“I’m really happy about the outreach,” said UVU student Justin Marks, vice president of Spectrum, UVU’s queer student alliance, and representative of the resource center at the festival. “I love Pride and I’m happy people are stopping by our booth.”

About 7,000 people attended the festival in 2017, according to Provo Pride’s own figures. Draper worried that the air quality due to the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain fires would keep more people inside this year, but, after a slow morning, things picked up in the afternoon.

“I feel good about the crowd,” she said. “It looks like people are having a good time.”

When asked how much effort is put into organizing and throwing the event, Draper said with a laugh, “A billion hours, and you can quote me on that.”

According to organizers, the mission of Provo pride is twofold: to educate and to make people feel welcome.

“[We want to] let people know we’re here — to let the LGBTQ people know we’re here, to educate the community about LGBTQ issues and services available,” Draper said. “There are a lot of young people coming out who need to know the kind of support and services that are available. There are parents of young people who needed to know what kind of support is available. And there are allies in the area who need to know how to become better allies.”

Understanding Sexuality, Gender and Allyship, or USGA, the unofficial BYU group referenced above, recently changed their name from Understanding Same-Gender Attraction to represent a mission that is inclusive of more people on the LGBT spectrum. Another group, Encircle, is a family and youth resource center that provides counseling opportunities for youth and their families.

Draper said these events are particularly important in an area with so many young adults.

“We’re very much a college town, so we’ve got a long of young people here who are, like a lot of people at that age, in a good position to really figure out sexuality, gender, and who are wanting to … have conversations with people to try to figure things out,” she said. “So that is a real thing and having spaces where people can have those conversations and figure things out is really important.”

To learn more about Provo Pride and the resources they work with, visit their website at www.ProvoPride.org.

UVU’s LGBT Student Services is located in LA 126 and their weekly discussion group meets every Wednesday from 3-4:30 p.m. in LA 116.

For more UVU Review coverage of this issue:

Provo Pride holds open-mic poetry for locals

Third annual Provo Pride Festival gathers community support

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