The sun was shining, birds were chirping, and people of all stripes took to downtown Salt Lake City to attend one of the largest events of the year: The 2015 Utah Pride Parade and Festival.

Although I was filled with nerves—Pride was the first parade I had ever participated in—I must say it was a complete blast. There were people wearing modified CTR shirts saying “CTL: Choose The Love,” while others wore everyday attire, but everyone focused on the message of love. There was plenty of yelling/screaming, waving, giving out a lot of high-fives and marching with my SLUG compatriots, along with our “floats”—a fleet of decked-out Fiats from Ken Garff Fiat of Salt Lake. With an attendance of around 35,000—making it one of the largest parades in the city all year—many of those witnessing the pageantry were a part of the SLUG family of readers, and I wanted to thank all of you who were there. It was great seeing all of you, and it’s nice to see such a large community of support for not only the LGBTQ community, but also for what we do.

After gaining access to the Pride Festival, which opened for the day right after the parade had finished, I realized that I was starving. Immediately I needed food, but have found in years past that getting a slice of pizza, a burger or the like, has always led to disappointment. This year I wanted something different: POUTINE!

For those of you unaware, Poutine is a Canadian dish that is made with a bed of crispy french-fries, topped with cheese curds, then covered in brown gravy. There was a poutine cart called Poutine Your Mouth, that served not only that, but a myriad of other options, including my selection: A Loaded. This combine all the aforementioned elements with crispy bacon bits, sour cream and chives. When you mixed the gravy with the sour cream, it made a stroganoff-like sauce that was outstanding. This is a cart I will be looking for in the future.

After that I made the rounds. Immediately I was impressed by the level of family friendliness the event had. There was kid karaoke in one area and a support-group tent for those aged 14–20, with a large sign outside it that made it clear: NO ADULTS ALLOWED! The imperative was followed stringently. PetCo had a large, grassy area with dog treats, bowls set up with water and an obstacle course. For the grown-ups, there was an area near on North side called the “Vodka Garden.” The thing I found most amusing about this area was in the fact that a mere 40 feet away was a tent for a defense lawyer, immediately followed by a Mayoral candidate … literally every member of the family was thought of.

2015 Utah Pride Parade
200 South was lined with thousands of spectators, some of them looking down from the tiers of parking garages. Photo: Mike Lehmann

Also in this area was something that immediately caught my attention. A gay square-dancing troupe called the Temple Squares were offering square-dancing lessons. If you don’t mind looking like a clueless fool, it’s a ton of fun. You learn all the basic steps, and will know how to “do-si-do” by the end, guaranteed. It takes about five minutes, and is something fun for the whole family.

It was then I got to see a band I have know of for many years, but had yet to see—Pride mainstays The Saliva Sisters. Their entire set is comprised of parody covers of popular songs with a VERY adult theme, but musically done in the style of jazzy show-tunes … think Ethel Merman singing songs about cunnilingus, and you have a pretty good idea. My favorite part was during their version of “All About That Bass,”  where they changed the lyrics to “All about the boobs, ’bout the boobs, huge nipples.” Then they pulled large, floppy boobs with large red nipples out of the tops of their dresses that hung down to their stomachs. It was HILARIOUS! It was one of the funniest shows I have seen in a long time, and an act I’m sure to catch next year.

As I spent the rest of the day walking around and speaking to people, there was something that was immediately noticeable … a complete feeling of non-judgment. And even more than that, was seeing two friends who hadn’t seen each other since last Pride, and had since gotten married. They’d show their rings to their buddies and talk about the wedding and everything with complete joy. But behind this joy, you’d see tents for groups like PostMos, which is a group for post Mormons and their friends, or tents for suicide support groups or tents for psychologists. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get preachy, but it’s just amazing seeing the stark contrast between so much joy, but always being constantly reminded of what potentially lurks beneath. One thing I hear a lot of people complain about is the fact that the world needs more love in it. I can say this was an event that the world could definitely learn something from.

As much as I’ve kept faith out of this, there’s really one one thing I can say—if I’ve learned anything, it was that if there is a supreme creator or something out there, I can’t imagine that they’d look down at that event with tear in their eyes … except those of joy.