Categories: LocalUtah Pride 2018

How Salt Lake City, of all places, built America’s most impressive Pride celebration

by Kastalia Medrano, travel writer,

Utah’s first Gay and Lesbian Pride March, in 1990, drew maybe 250 people. It went more or less unopposed. The biggest issue it ran into was that the route took marchers past a bunch of parked horse carriages, the sort tourists ride around the downtown.

“We were marching by, chanting and screaming,” says Connell “Rocky” O’Donovan, the march’s co-founder and a man introduced to me as “the local gay historian.” The horses, naturally, were startled — presumably at the sight of a vocal gay march in Salt Lake City, or perhaps at the ruckus itself. “That actually got really dangerous,” O’Donovan continues. “I felt really bad for the horses. And the drivers and the police had approved the route, but then they said, ‘Oh, shoot, this wasn’t a good idea, was it.’”

But aside from the horse encounters, it was, in fact, a pretty good idea. At the second march, in 1991, turnout roughly doubled. O’Donovan led marchers on a new route from the state capitol down to the city [and county] building, where the Salt Lake City Pride Festival is held today.

And this time, they arrived to find a handful of neo-Nazis waiting.

“They’d taken over the premises, and they had not gotten permits to be there,” O’Donovan says. “I was so angry that I had gone through all these hoops to get a permit and they just showed up. We went to the cops, and the cops were like, ‘they were here first.’ And I was like, ‘but they don’t have a permit to be here!’

O’Donovan, bullhorn in hand, outwardly maintained his composure as he blared the message to his marchers that Nazis, too, had the right to free speech and freedom of assembly. Inwardly? “I’m freaking out,” he says, “thinking if any of them have a gun they’re gonna shoot me.”



Recent Posts

Where is the compassion?

As we take time to focus on LGBTQIA history, I think it's only fitting that we take a look not…

18 hours ago

Go first to Avenues Bistro on Third

Like some immigrants or refugees, Avenues Bistro on Third has had a tumultuous past. Avenuians could not wrap their head…

19 hours ago

The tale of the chicken of the sea

The road to a pain-free back is fraught with danger and excitement. Those of you who know me, have probably…

20 hours ago

Utah Alzheimer’s organization using new study to better help LGB patients

Medical research often excludes or overlooks LGBT people, making their needs as a community and as individuals challenging to identify.…

22 hours ago

Mayor Biskupski announces Commission Against Gun Violence, seeks applications from residents

Mayor Jackie Biskupski has announced today the formation of a Commission Against Gun Violence, tasked with exploring policy questions regarding…

2 days ago

National news briefs

Blind pig finds truffle Mary Roland, a magistrate judge since 2012 is a surprising nomination to the U.S. District Court…

2 days ago