PHOTOS: Denver PrideFest returns to in-person revelry with ‘hub’ model

By Annie Burky, Karson Hallaway

//Tae Frans, Joe Frans, Alaura Cole and Jennika Janis, spent this year’s Denver PrideFest hopping between hubs including The Center on Colfax on June 26. Photos by Karson Hallaway | karsonhallaway@gmail.com

This weekend, PrideFest emerged out of its 2020 virtual form into a hybrid setting. With the threat of coronavirus still prevalent, The Center on Colfax made the prudent decision to keep the heart of the annual event, the parade, online. As the Rocky Mountain Region’s largest LGBTQ+ event, which drew 450,000 people in 2019, the hybrid model separated the masses flocking to Denver to show their pride. 

Before 2020, PrideFest would center around the Denver Pride Parade ending in a performance at Civic Center Park. This year, the parade went virtual, with Coloradans from all over the state and country getting the opportunity to participate. The program, which streamed on the Center on Colfax’s website and the Denver 7 app, was more of a telethon-style event than the traditional parade format of previous years. The One Colorado Pride Rally and the Denver Dyke March were also adapted to the online format, with the 5K being virtual and in person. 

As runners circled the downtown area, “hubs” dotted the city allowing participants to celebrate at smaller in-person events. Sponsors partnered with the Center to provide six hubs that allowed attendees to hone in on specific interests and experiences. 

Hub sponsors included the Jewish Community Center, Denver Film and the Sie FilmCenter, Hamburger Mary’s, McGregor’s Square, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and Coors Light, which set up a beer garden at the Center on Colfax. 

The event that started in 1969 as a riot at New York’s historical Stonewall Inn has evolved markedly over the decades. Denver’s PrideFest made substantial efforts to provide space for families, people over 50, those wanting to dance and those wanting to quietly watch a film in the company of other LGBTQ+ folks. The only noticeable absences were the marches and parades of years past, an exclusion that all hope will return in 2022.


Photos below by Karson Hallaway

//The Center on Colfax, located in Denver and serving as the largest LGBTQ community center in the Rocky Mountain region, collaborated with local businesses this year to produce the six hubs . The Center served as the Denver PrideFest’s main source of information and resources for all in-person events.

//Ryan Peyton (She/They) has been coming to Denver Pride since 2008. What used to be just 100,000 people celebrating on a single Sunday has grown to 450,000 people over an entire weekend. Over the years, Denver’s PrideFest has been a central celebration with allies and other members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

“It’s stayed the same, the same in the sense that we are still building partnerships with communities and organizations who support our work to maintain and grow,” Peyton said.

//Debbie Scheer (She/Her/Hers) spent her Saturday at this year’s Denver Pride volunteering for the sixth year in a row. Scheer has been coming to PrideFest for almost 25 years and has had the fortune to help with previous events at both the Civic Center and the Pride Parade. This year, Scheer volunteered by pouring mixed drinks to Pride attendees. 

“This year, specifically, we had to shift a little bit to do some virtual as well as some in-person. I love that it’s a very community feel,” Scheer said. 

Although it takes The Center on Colfax over a million dollars to organize, Pride is still a free event. Corporate sponsorship is in part what allows PrideFest to continue, as well as collaboration with local businesses and the City of Denver.

“People don’t have to pay to come to Pride Fest, which is really amazing considering the level of entertainment,” Scheer said.

//Sable Schultz (She/Her), Director of Transgender Services at The Center on Colfax, meets and greets other LGBTQ+ folks. “I’ve lived in Denver since September of 2000 and I’ve come to work in The Center since 2016. It just gets bigger every year,” Shultz said outside the Center on Colfax. 

Now that Pride is spread out among six different hubs throughout Denver, PrideFest 2021 has become more accessible to family and multi-generational participants. 

“One of the big things that was commented to me early was how many parents are bringing their kids and connecting their youth with the community. Seeing that generational process, where a lot of folks my age didn’t have support from parents. It really shows the support that Denver has for the LGBTQ community,” Shultz said.

//In January 2021, it became clear to Center Events Director, John White, that in-person events could be a possibility again. Planning for this year’s Denver Pride festival took nearly 6-months to plan.

“The hub idea kinda came up in a conversation about community and how people are trying to get back on their feet as businesses struggled during the pandemic,” White said.




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