Celebrating 50 years of Denver Pride with events big and small

Two people, one wearing a black tank top and black pants with the other wearing white shorts and a white cropped tank top with a white sheer scarf, stands in front of decoration for PrideFest.
Photo by Ashley Schoenbauer, courtesy of Jon Pushkin
Some of the pageantry at 2023’s PrideFest, which includes a parade, a 5K run, performers, food and other activities.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of PrideFest in Denver, and this weekend is expected to be bigger than years past. But there is also a smaller, quieter pride-friendly gathering on Monday.

”50 Years of Pride” is the theme this year for Denver PrideFest, which since 1974 has been celebrated with a parade and activities.

Well, it is the biggest parade that we've had so far,” said The Center on Colfax CEO Rex Fuller on Tuesday. “We have 290 entries. We've registered 17,000 people walking in the parade, so it'll be very large and full of color and excitement.”

The grand marshal of the parade this year is drag queen Christie Lane, who applied for the first pride parade permit half a century ago.

“As a 20-year-old back in the 70s ... so we’re honoring her this year,” Fuller said.

Last year, the parade pulled in close to half a million dollars, which is used for programming for the center. Proceeds come from exhibitor space, parade entries and food and beverage sales, he said.

The celebratory weekend begins on Saturday, with events including a 5K run. And on Sunday, the parade begins at 9:30 a.m. from Cheesman Park. It travels down Franklin Street to Colfax, and then down Colfax to Broadway to the state capitol, where it ends.

Two people wearing matching blue shirts and grey cargo shorts and sunglasses run under an inflatable archway with a banner reading Pride 5k Finish.
Photo by Tyi Reddick, courtesy of Jon Pushkin
PrideFest's annual 5K run at the event in 2023. This year's event is expected to have more participants than last year.

Also at the parade will be floats, including one representing El Potrero Night Club, an LGBT bar in Glendale.

Fuller is anticipating good weather. “Fingers crossed,” he said.

But in case it’s too hot or too crowded, the very next day is another Pride-friendly gathering to be held in a cooler place, with fewer people.

On Mondays at 10 a.m. at the Center, the group West of Fifty meets. It's a community for lesbians and transgender women 50 years old or older who come together and talk about whatever.

A support group called West of 50 meets on Mondays at the Center on Colfax
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A support group called West of 50 meets on Mondays at the Center on Colfax in Denver. It's a group of lesbian and transgender women aged 50 and older, who meet for support, community and friendship.

At a recent meeting earlier this month, one woman of the eight or so who’d gathered had just gotten back from a trip, and she’d put together a video of it that she shared with attendees. 

Another woman talked about what it was like to start dating in her fifties. It’s been slow going, she said, sharing that she, like other women there, came out after having raised a family first. Other women talked about an alcohol addiction she was fighting, while a few just sat quietly, surrounded by others in a non-judgmental space, in a cool room that seated about 20 people.

It’s a cooler and quieter option than the parade this year, which will feature the Mile High Freedom Band along with CHEER Colorado, a competitive cheerleading group focusing on LGBTQ+ inclusivity that also raises funds for the CHEER for Life fund. The fund provides annual unrestricted donations to nonprofit organizations that support the LGBTQIA+ community of Colorado.