OGDEN — For the fifth consecutive year, downtown Ogden showed off its pride.
Thousands were in attendance on a hot, sunny Saturday for the annual Ogden Pride Festival, taking place at the Ogden Amphitheater and the surrounding area near Historic 25th Street.
The Saturday event featured well over 100 booths from local and state organizations as well as local businesses and performers on two stages. The day was the last for the pride festival weekend, which began Thursday with the Ogden Pride Soireé and a homecoming dance.
On Friday, a rally and a youth drag show took place on Weber State’s campus, with the latter being hosted by both Ogden Pride and the Imperial Rainbow Court of Northern Utah.
Saturday was busy, but went according to plan says Tyler Bottema, a board member for Ogden Pride. The festival has come a long way in five years.
“It’s grown exponentially,” Bottema said. “The first couple years we could probably barely fill the amphitheater … but with the past few years we’ve been lucky enough that now we’re starting to squeeze people into the field.”
He added that the festival has grown from roughly 500 attendees in the first year to now an estimated 7,000 for the 2019 festival. Even though only 50 volunteer spots were available, well over that number applied to help out, Bottema said. All booth spaces were filled for this year’s event, something that hasn’t happened before in Ogden Pride’s five festivals.
“It’s grown a lot in just five years,” Bottema said.
With the growth in the festival, Ogden Pride has also been fundraising for months in the effort to one day have a building of their own to call home.
Bottema said the idea of a center goes in line with the festival’s theme this year, “Embrace, Encourage, Empower,” which is meant to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots of 1969.
“With the Stonewall, there wasn’t a safe place, that’s the whole point, and so with Ogden Pride this year, we’re really pushing to get our center up and running,” he said. “Just so we can be one of those who provides that finally, after 50 years, it’s nice to have a safe place in Ogden and in northern Utah.”
Bottema said that the organization is at the point where they have begun to look for spaces to possibly call their own, though no concrete time frame has been established as to when the new center could be up and running. While it may be a small step, the fact that Ogden Pride is getting closer to a permanent center is cause for elation.
“It’s exciting,” Bottema says with a smile. “I just get giddy talking about it, it’s awesome. Just because it’s one of those things in the first few years, we thought ‘oh it’s 10,15 years in the future,’ so for it to grow way beyond our expectations and be able to do it in five or six years, that’s a huge accomplishment, we feel.”
Support for the festival has come from organizations around Ogden and too from other groups from around the state.
One such state-wide group attending Saturday’s festival was Mormons Building Bridges, a group based in Salt Lake City that focuses on bridging the gap between the LGBTQ community and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Susan Hancock, a member of the organization, said a pride festival in a town like Ogden is a great asset for the community.
“It’s amazing, I love it,” Hancock said. “There’s so much diversity in the people who are here, and it’s a very welcoming event.”
Hancock noted the number of families that were in attendance on Saturday, something the Bottema says is a focus for Ogden Pride.
Whether it was musical entertainment, a drag show or the variety of booths and activities, there was something for all ages during the festival.
Though the end of the day Saturday marked the end of this year’s Ogden Pride festival, the organization is always working year-round. Ogden Pride has a twice-monthly social support group that meets on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month at 4 p.m. at the Congregational United Church of Christ, located at 3350 Harrison Blvd. in Ogden.