Rainbow banners line St. George streets for Southern Utah Pride Festival

ST. GEORGE — Early Monday morning, St. George Boulevard and Bluff Street were decorated with a vibrant pop of color  commuters were greeted by 30 pride banners hung around the city’s center in recognition of the fourth annual Southern Utah pride week.

One of the 30 pride banners hung along St. George Boulevard, St. George, Utah, Sept. 9, 2019 | Photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

Linda Stay, Pride of Southern Utah’s community outreach adviser, said the idea to adorn the heart of the city with banners was inspired by Heber City, which decorated its downtown for pride month and was met with a great deal of controversy. Despite the “flack” Heber City received, Stay said it also brought a great deal of visibility.

“It’s just vital for young and old,” she said, holding back tears. “There’s many adults in our community who are still afraid to be who they are, to show who they really are. A display like this down St. George Boulevard, it shows them, ‘You’re not alone; we’re here.’ It shows them, also, that their city is not against them.”

Pride of Southern Utah published a crowdfunding option to pay for the banners, and within 24 hours, Stay said enough money was raised to display 30 flags.

According to Stay, the celebration of equality has grown substantially since its founding. In 2006, a committee approached the St. George City Council in hopes of creating a pride celebration in the heart of town. Members of the council denied the request, but the group went on to successfully bring the event to Springdale.

St. George Pride Festival, St. George, Utah, Sept. 22, 2018 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Almost 10 years later, four teenagers posted a “St. George Pride” event on Facebook with no location or details other than a tentative date. The event quickly gained over 200 attendees, and the mother of one of the teens called Stay asking for help. She and her team had only 10 days to organize the event.

“We thought maybe 150-200 people would show up, and there was over 1,000 people that came to that,” she said. “It was mind-blowing that in 10 days we were able to pull that off. That honestly kind of became the first pride in St. George.”

The following year, current Pride of Southern Utah Director Stephen Lambert founded the nonprofit organization that has been helping Southern Utah residents celebrate equality annually.

Stay says the community’s courage and unconditional love has helped the organization grow and reach new people. Despite its growth, she said the festival’s purpose has remained the same: to provide visibility and encourage people to come as they are. The pride banners lining the streets of St. George are a means to that end.

This year’s pride week begins Sunday, ending with a festival on Sept. 21 from 3-9 p.m. at Town Square Park. Events throughout the week will include entertainment, food and activities. More information is available on the Pride of Southern Utah website.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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