Boise CultureCulture

Boise Pride Festival set to return in-person this September

Photo courtesy Josh Johnson

Boise Pride Festival is making its return to Cecil D. Andrus Park and will take place from Sept. 10 to Sept. 12 of this year. 

Boise Pride aims “to promote unity and celebrate the diversity of sexual orientations and identities in Boise year-round.

Boise State graduate Coco Freeo received her Master of Education in May 2021. 

Freeo will be one of the many talents performing at Boise PrideFest this year. 

In 2018, Coco Freeo attended her first Pride event in Boise where she was introduced to a new community of spirit and culture: the queer community

“Pride is celebrating who we are, what we do and what we love most,” said Freeo. “It is an opportunity to put aside prejudice, discrimination and just celebrate.”

Freeo has been performing in Boise since April 2021 at The Balcony Club downtown, but she is optimistic about this year’s celebration in September.

“I am excited to be in person, participating in these big events that I never thought that I was going to be part of and sharing their talent with their community and just having fun,” said Freeo. “That’s what we need right now after last year, [especially] after what we’ve been dealing with lately.”

[Photo of Coco Freeo performing at The Balcony Club]
Photo courtesy Josh Johnson

Dugan Jackman works closely with the Boise Pride Festival as the Local Talent Manager and Event Director for The Balcony Club downtown. He books local talent for the Pride Mainstage and also plans events for The Balcony Club.

“People are just happy to see each other, happy to be with so many others celebrating who they are and happy to not worry about the outside world for a few days and just celebrate being queer,” said Jackman.

Aside from celebration, other factors come into play when planning the festival’s events, such as entertainment. Both local and visiting talent groups will be coming together during this three-day festival. 

“You will see everything from Belly Dancing, Circus acts, singers, bands, Drag Queens and Kings, and even family interactive entertainment with Drag Storytime, [dance classes], jump roping and more,” said Jackman. 

The diversity in entertainment is what makes this year’s event so special. 

However, keeping COVID-19 in mind, Jackman stressed the importance of getting vaccinated and continuing the wearing of masks throughout the festival in order to protect everyone’s health and safety. 

Both Freeo and Jackman expressed that they celebrated virtually last year but they hope to celebrate in person, trusting that attendees maintain a safe social distance. 

“Having a digital Pride was fun last year, but to be able to celebrate and party with so many like-minded people is what this community needs,” said Jackman. “[…] Be respectful of businesses and organizations as they try to do their part so we can safely have these celebrations.” 

There’s a lot more that goes into putting the Boise Pride Festival together. Behind the scenes, Michael Dale, President of Boise Pride’s board of directors, works with performers and local business owners like Freeo and Jackman in order to execute a successful Pride every year. 

“For the last 31 years, Boise Pride has grown from an event with two dozen people to now expecting 70,000 people in our 32nd year,” said Dale. “The growth and support we have seen has been incredible.”

Dale and his team held various meetings since March of this year to keep up with CDC guidelines and the health and safety regulations that other Pride events are following nationwide.

“Every meeting starts a discussion about COVID-19 [where] we research and discuss what other Pride events across the country are doing, track positivity rates in our community and develop plans on how we will potentially track vaccination or testing status,” said Dale. “In addition, we work with the Central District Health Department, City of Boise, vendors, and sponsors to understand their concerns and needs.”

The return of festivals such as Pride and even Boise’s own Treefort Music Fest in September brings this surge of encouragement for attendees, staff, volunteers, etc. to get vaccinated before attending. Many festivals across the country, including Stagecoach and Coachella, are requiring attendees to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result. 

Dale expects to follow suit in requiring a vaccination status or a negative COVID-19 test prior to participating.

“In the coming days, we are likely to issue a vaccine requirement or negative COVID-19 test for entry to the Festival,” said Dale. “Several of our sponsors will also be hosting vaccination clinics.”

No formal announcement has been made regarding the requirements of vaccination or test results, but Dale still stated that he strongly encourages everyone who plans to attend to get vaccinated in order to ensure a safe and fun environment for this year’s Boise Pride Festival. 

More to come on Boise Pride Festival’s announcement regarding vaccination requirements.

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