In March 1975, Boulder County Clerk & Recorder Clela Rorex granted the first same-sex marriage license in the United States.
“We’ve had amazing moments in Boulder, huge defeats, and incredible mobilization of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people and their allies,” says Boulder historian Glenda Russell.
For Russell, this is exactly why a politically active town like Boulder needs its own Pridefest, the 10th annual installment of which Out Boulder, a nonprofit LGBT advocacy group, is hosting this weekend.
“When we are not under siege, we have time and the possibility of looking at day-to-day attitudes,” Russell says.
Pridefest is thus a useful tool for bringing together members of a community that may feel distant from one another, according to Russell.
“It’s really important for LGBT people to see other LGBT people gathered, to see queer culture in various forms of music, activities, the proliferation of rainbow objects,” she says. “It’s important for young LGBT people to see there are places in Boulder where people come together.”
There is a heavy youth component to the festival as well.
“The after-party is an 18-plus event that the younger crowd can engage with and enjoy,” says Pridefest coordinator and Out Boulder Events Manager Aubree Peckham.
At Pridefest, Peckham continues, “we’ll see what our community looks like, together. This is the one time a year where we can really come together and celebrate, make sure everyone’s visible and appreciated by one another.”
What began as a party in a park set up by volunteers 10 years ago has grown into an event tailored to the Boulder appetite for pride.
“Not everyone wants to go down and have the giant, half-naked parade and the drunkenness. Our [Pridefest] is a little more peachy [compared to other cities’ festivals], and I think the community appreciates that — it’s where everyone feels most comfortable,” Peckham says.
Pridefest has existed as a block party, a Pearl Street event, a community-wide festival in Central Park, and now it will have its first run at the Boulder Theater, after being delayed and reorganized following the September flood.
This year’s Pridefest includes musical performances, including Denver group The Tah Tahs, drag and burlesque performers, aerial dancers, a comedian and more. The event kicks off with a happy hour on Thursday, Nov. 21, at Proto’s Pizza in Boulder, beginning at 7:30 p.m. The main event takes place on Saturday, Nov. 23, from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Boulder Theater, and is free and open to the public.
Out Boulder will also host an After Party beginning at 9 p.m. at the Boulder Theater, with tickets on sale now through Out Boulder, or available online (ticket sales will go in part to recouping the investments of Out Boulder in the Pridefest scheduled for earlier this year that was postponed due to the flooding).
Peckham sees part of Pridefest’s draw in that there is something going on for everyone, an appeal to the entire community.
“We have an intergenerational event,” she says. “Families with kids, single people, couples ... people come from the Springs, Fort Collins, Pueblo, all over the state.”
Russell invites the diverse LGBT community and their allies to visit her at Pridefest this weekend, where she’ll be at a booth depicting a timeline of LGBT history in Boulder County.
“See where you fit in it,” Russell says. “There is room for everyone.”
All members of the community are invited and encouraged to, as Peckham says, “take over the entire beautiful theater and let loose, dance and sing along, and just enjoy the entertainment. … It’s a community celebration of everything that we’ve accomplished, promoting visibility, coming together, and celebrating with each other.”
Thirty-eight years after that first same-sex marriage license was granted and overturned, Boulder has still not given up on those ideals. The Colorado Civil Union Act was passed in March 2013, granting civil unions to same-sex couples in the state and thus offering legal rights such as the ability to adopt a partner’s child, or make medical decisions on a partner’s behalf.
“The LGBT community has had its struggles, and it’s important to highlight that this is a community that has much to celebrate,” Russell says.