Denver PrideFest continues to fight for inclusivity

The festival drew more than 300,000 over Father's Day weekend.


For many of Denver’s residents, heading to the annual Pride Parade means more than enjoying the June sunshine. Eloise Chajkowski and Brenda Lacewell attended PrideFest on June 17. The pair live in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and came to cheer on friends who were participating in the parade. Seeing a big crowd supporting people’s right to be who they are, brought an emotional response.

“It’s been a really beautiful day, lots of tears on our part,” Lacewell said.

Neighborhoods across Denver came together to support the rights of the LGBTQ community over Pride Weekend, which ran from Friday, June 15, to Sunday, June 17.

On Saturday, the festival launched with the Pride 5-kilometer race, followed by performances in Civic Center Park. The parade and a rally at the Capitol building were held on Sunday. Event organizers for the 43rd annual event estimated that 350,000 people attended the festival, and said it was one of the largest Pride events in the region.

The Baker Broadway Merchant Association and the Office of Councilman Jolon Clark raised about $31,000 to install rainbow crosswalks at Broadway and West Irvington Place. The organizations began installing the sidewalks on June 12 to have them completed for Pride events.

Fundraising efforts were spearheaded by Buffalo Exchange, including owners Todd Colletti, Shawna Slavinski and Greg Maronde.

The crosswalks are made of thermoplastic materials that better withstand traffic on Broadway than traditional paint. Extra funds raised will go toward maintaining the crosswalk in the future.

The materials of the crosswalk should last about 10 years, Slavinski said.

“If we were going to collect that much money, we wanted it to last.”

Clark and the merchant association held a ribbon-cutting on June 15, followed by a walk-off event hosted by Buffalo Exchange.

The group worked for 1 1/2 years to bring the project together, Clark said.

Councilwoman-at-large Robin Kniech, Denver’s first lesbian member of the city council, said it was important for LGBTQ allies like Clark to help bring visibility to the community.

“It’s not just up to us LGBTQ folks,” she said.

The parade had special meaning for many this year, after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision in favor of a Colorado business that refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple based on his religious beliefs.

Jon Rhodes, who moved to Denver three weeks before Pride, said it was his first time attending the festival in Colorado. He added that it was important for members of the LGBTQ community to come in support of the event.

“It’s our community,” he said. “It’s just what we’re supposed to be doing honestly.”

Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins led the parade as grand marshals this year. The couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in 2012 after Lakewood-based bakery Masterpiece Cakeshop refused to make a cake for their wedding. The Colorado court system ruled in favor of the couple. Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. While the court did not decide that Phillips had the constitutional right to refuse service to the couple based on his religious beliefs, the majority did decide the case was not free of religious bias. The decision was 7-2 with Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissenting. The decision came in on June 4.

For Sissy Lu, Pride is a visual way to speak out for the rights of the LGBTQ community. Sissy Lu spent three hours putting together a leotard outfit with a lampshade style-hat and pink face make-up.

“(It’s) visibility for those that are marginalized and empowerment for those people,” Sissy Lu said. “It’s kind of a giant flashing stop sign to the straight people for inclusiveness.”


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