Denver’s PrideFest goes virtual for 2020

By Madison Lauterbach

//Denver’s annual Pride Parade kicked off at Cheeseman Park on June 16, 2019. Photo by Esteban Fernandez | sovereign73811b@gmail.com

Denver PrideFest will be celebrating its 45th year with a twist on June 20-21. The annual parade, 5K, music performances and vendor booths have gone virtual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Rocky Mountain Region’s largest LGBTQ+ event takes almost a full year to put together, said Joe Foster, vice president of development and communication of The Center on Colfax. The organization produces the annual Denver Pride weekend-long celebration. 

“We began planning the actual pride literally a week after last year’s pride. It takes about a year to plan an in-person pride,” Foster said. “Once COVID hit, we definitely held onto hope that we would have the in-person pride, but as we got more into what was going on around Denver and the country, it became apparent it wasn’t going to happen.”

Foster said that Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s decision in mid-March to limit large gatherings to 50 people put the kibosh on those hopes. The 2019 PrideFest drew 450,000 people to Civic Center Park, so limiting its attendants so severely wasn’t an option. The team then went into overdrive figuring out how to move everything to a virtual platform. 

“I’m so proud of our team here who basically planned two different Prides in one year,” Foster said. 

The switch was made entirely in-house, Foster said, without hiring any new contractors or consulting companies. The same contractors that have brought Pride to Denver in years prior are those who organized this year. Although the rows of booths around Civic Center are absent this year, food, beverage and exhibitor consultants have created a virtual marketplace to give attendees a similar experience. Vendors who count on the event for exposure have the ability to sell their goods and services online through the PrideFest virtual marketplace. Foster said the majority of companies that had reserved a spot for the in-person pride switched over to the online platform seamlessly. 

“A lot of these businesses are LGBTQ and locally owned and really count on Denver Pride every year for their livelihoods,” Foster said. “Taking away the in-person portion really hurt a lot of businesses that were already hurting from COVID, but this is our way of trying to make sure that they were able to continue on and really show their support for the LGBTQ community.”

Although direct human-to-human interaction will be absent from the festival this year, Foster said people will be able to interact in the comment section on most aspects of the weekend-long event. The virtual nature of PrideFest this year has also opened up accessibility for those who live outside of Denver or live with disabilities. As Foster said, anyone can participate in the celebration from home, no matter where they are. 

“There isn’t one thing missing from the in-person pride that isn’t in the virtual pride,” Foster said. “Whether it’s the Latin Stage, The Center Stage, Dance World–it’s all there–even the rally with One Colorado that we co-produced. It was a very heavy lift for all of us, but we really took on the challenge and I think we’re going to have a really exciting time this weekend.”

For more details about the virtual events, check out The Center’s schedule of events here


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