At the center of the 41st annual Denver PrideFest, attendees will find a solid black box – eight feet wide and ten feet tall – listing the names of the 49 victims who lost their lives in a gay nightclub in Orlando last Sunday.
“It’s going to start black, which is how everyone is feeling right now,” said Lonnie Hanzon, the artist who designed the memorial, as well as last year’s centerpiece, a 25-foot tall wedding cake honoring marriage equality.
“We will write the names of all the victims, and then we want people to wipe out that blackness with color and messages of love,” Hanzon said.
“We want people who attend the festival to be able to share their feelings and thoughts,” said Rex Fuller, a festival organizer. “We expect it will become a sort of memorial.”
This year’s festival was originally planned to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The GLBT Community Center of Colorado and the 20th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Romer v. Evans, which overturned Colorado’s Amendment 2, and granted civil rights protections to the LGBT community in Colorado.
“Those celebrations have taken a backseat to the Orlando tragedy,” Fuller said
In addition to honoring the 49 victims at the center of the festival, Fuller said security has increased for this weekend. No coolers or outside drinks will be permitted into Civic Center Park, and bags will be subject to inspection before entering the gates.
“It’s still a summer festival. We just want to make the guests feel comfortable, and we want to be cautious just in case,” Fuller said.
The GLBT center has received no threats, he said, but recognizes the importance of enhanced security measures.
“If you see something, say something,” Fuller said. “With the presence of our private security and the Denver Police Department, there will be plenty of people to ask for help if you see something suspicious.”
The center reports that PrideFest generally draws approximately 350,000 attendees between Saturday and Sunday. Fuller said that this year festival will have one of the largest parades Sunday morning, with expectations for some 100,000 spectators.
“This is not going to set back our community,” Denver-based artist Hanzon said. “We are not going to get anywhere with fear and hate – beauty will save the world.”
Pride Week festivities have already launched, but the festival officially opens 11 a.m. Saturday, June 18, at Civic Center Park.