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Denver’s PrideFest Turns 40

The third-largest gay pride celebration in the country is more than just a party.

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At some point birthdays begin to lose their significance. Maybe it’s after 25 (you can rent a car!) or, more likely, 21 (you know why). But then 40 arrives, and you get to recalibrate: Have I accomplished what I intended to? Will I have a legacy? At 40, you’ve got a resumé long enough to be fairly judged and enough time left to pursue grander ambitions. So it goes for Denver’s PrideFest, which celebrates the big 4-0 this month (June 20 and 21). What began as a small picnic in Cheesman Park to bring attention, identity, and fellowship to the LGBT community has exploded into the third largest gay pride celebration in the country, a 350,000-person party that injects $25 million into Denver each year. That’s a huge accomplishment, but…does it have a legacy beyond the weekend? Since taking over management of the event in 1990, the GLBT Community Center of Colorado has worked hard to make sure it does. Free to the public, last year’s PrideFest raised about $350,000 through vendor fees and sponsorships, such as the CoorsLight PrideFest Parade. The center spends those dollars on support programs for the LGBT community and advocacy efforts; altogether, the center helps 40,000 people a year. Don’t let PrideFest’s maturing mission fool you, though. The fete might be middle-aged, but PrideFest can still get down. This year’s fiesta at Civic Center Park features three stages with more than 60 live acts, a petting zoo for families, and a sculpture by Denver artist Lonnie Hanzon exclusively for PrideFest called “Equality Cake.” The 20-foot-tall piece is made of mirrored disco balls, perfect for a moment of reflection before returning to the party.

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