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Provo • Residents were greeted with rainbow flags, smiling faces and live music Saturday as they arrived at the city's Memorial Park for the third annual Provo Pride Festival.
The growing event, celebrating Utah County's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, featured dozens of booths, vendors and performances from a slate of area bands and headliner Caravan of GLAM, an Oregon-based drag troupe.
"Our first year was definitely a novelty," festival director Jack Garcia said. "I think now that we're in our third the momentum just keeps going."
Garcia said the LGBT community has a lot to celebrate this year, with the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized marriage in all 50 states.
But he added that gay and lesbian individuals in politically and religiously conservative Utah County continue to exist outside the cultural mainstream. Events such as the Pride Festival, he said, boost the LGBT community's visibility.
"It can help people who feel marginalized to feel included," he said. "Gay people in this area still feel left out of the mainstream cultural norm."
Among the organizations participating in the festival was Mormons Building Bridges, formed to mend and mold ties between the LGBT community and members of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The group, which offered free hugs to passers-by, is active in LGBT events across Utah. But Bridges official Sherri Park said the Provo Pride Festival is distinctive for taking place in Mormon-dominated Utah County.
"Just come down and say hi," she said. "We love you just the way you are. We'll give you a hug and a sticker."
Provo resident Matthew Prince said he attended the festival to celebrate the LGBT community and show pride in himself. He said he didn't expect to find a pride festival when he moved to Utah County from Las Vegas two months ago.
"I have only been out for a couple months now," he said, "so it has been cool to see how supportive and loving and understanding, surprisingly, Happy Valley Utah is."
Lehi resident Senja Van Wagenen said she didn't know about the Provo Pride Festival until this year.
"There's a lot of diversity," she said. "Everything from the hugging Mormons to the atheists."
Garcia said the event was planned to coincide with the annual conference of Affirmation, an organization of LGBT Mormons and supporters.
This year's Affirmation conference was headlined by Tyler Glenn, a Utah native and lead singer of Neon Trees.
"I'm excited to return to my hometown and celebrate with my fellow LGBT Mormons," Glenn said in a statement. "Since I've come out, I've felt nothing but an increase of love I never knew I could feel. I now associate being gay with being happy, and this conference and performance will be a really cool way to connect with my community."
Unlike the larger Utah Pride Festival in Salt Lake City, Provo Pride did not charge admission or include a parade. The Utah Pride Festival's parade is free and has become the second biggest parade in the state after the Days of '47 procession.
Garcia said the lack of a Provo Pride Parade is a funding issue, adding that the festival is intended as a comparably low-key event where guests are welcome to come and go.
"There's definitely a need for it," he said. "I feel like there is a sizable gay and lesbian community here in Utah County but it's mostly invisible."