Utah Pride Week co-director retiring after more than decade of planning Pride

Jun 1, 2022, 8:24 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 4:30 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – As tens of thousands of people get ready to enjoy Utah Pride Week festivities, one of the main people behind making the annual event happen for the community for years is saying goodbye.

Perhaps no one knows more than John Johnson how much work goes into planning Pride Week and setting up for the Utah Pride Festival.

Wednesday morning, he was hard to miss running around in his referee shirt. All at once, it seemed that all the equipment and supplies arrived and were ready to be set up.

Johnson directed a recycling dumpster to a spot he mapped out, making sure it was dropped in the right location down to the inch.

Trucks came and went, and Johnson told each person where to park. He pointed crews to various parts of Washington Square where they could get to work.

Volunteers came up to ask where to place bins filled with fence covers.

“I don’t know how he keeps it all in his head sometimes,” Megan Risbon said, with a chuckle. As the sustainability manager and logistics assistant, she helped coordinate all the waste and recycling for the Utah Pride Festival.

Risbon has known Johnson for 15 years and has watched him develop his organized system for running the festival.

But still, it’s a lot to coordinate.

At one point, a volunteer asked Johnson if he needed water. He realized Johnson probably needed water and food, so he didn’t get too exhausted.

“Pressure’s on to just make it perfect,” he said.

Especially because this is Johnson’s last Pride Week as co-director. After the festival is over, he will retire.

“I just want to finish on a good note,” Johnson said.

He indicated that this is his 14th Pride celebration working behind the scenes to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.

But Johnson’s been involved with the Utah Pride Center for 25 years, he said, whether as a board member, volunteer, employee, or in roles like co-director of Utah Pride Week.

“I am trying to wrap this one up and go out on a high, and hopefully, this is our biggest best, and I’m really quite proud of it,” he expressed. “We’ve made some changes, and I think we’re ready for a big crowd. We will be ready.”

John Johnson, Utah Pride Week co-director

When Johnson first became involved in the Utah Pride Festival, he said it was “quite small,” taking up about half of Washington Square.

Today, the festival is just one of 14 events Johnson helps coordinate for Pride Week. The festival now takes up an entire city block, all of 200 East between 400 and 500 South, and part of Library Square.

He explained that the festival was costing the Utah Pride Center tens of thousands of dollars. Now, the festival and parade pull in hundreds of thousands in funding for the center.

Johnson said he wanted to show that it was a “party with a purpose.”

“We can give back, and know that what we do this one weekend a year, can actually support programs and services that last all year long,” he said.

Risbon described how she’s seen Johnson transform the event. She said more and more people have attended every year since Johnson began organizing it, and sponsorship increased along with community engagement.

“He’s done such a great job in making sure that it’s financially successful, and that it operationally and logistically is successful as well,” she said.

Risbon knows Johnson leaves behind a legacy and expressed she’s grateful she got to learn from him.

“Thank you, John, for everything. You have taught me a lot, and I really wouldn’t be where I am in my life without him,” she said, getting teary-eyed as she spoke. “And I appreciate that so much. It’s been an absolute pleasure and joy to be your friend, learn from you, and work together with you this year. And I wish you all the best.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

Denali Stubbs, preparing his bike for the upcoming race....
Alex Cabrero

Hildale high school bike team participates in regional race

"I just want to do the same for these kids:” a Hillside parent hopes to encourage teens in his community to dream bigger by getting involved in sports.
22 hours ago
Authorities responding to the fatal rollover crash. (UDOT)...
Michael Houck

Two dead after pickup truck crashes into ravine near I-215

Authorities are investigating a rollover crash that killed two of its occupants on I-215 near 1000 South Saturday afternoon. 
22 hours ago
President Russell M. Nelson speaks during the Saturday morning session of the 192nd Semiannual Gene...
Josh Ellis

President Nelson addresses using chair during conference talk

President Russell M. Nelson took to social media after Latter-day Saints noticed he used a chair to deliver his remarks during the Saturday morning session of the 192nd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
22 hours ago
President Russell M. Nelson, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks during the ...
Tad Walch, Deseret News

‘Any kind of abuse … is an abomination,’ President Nelson says at Saturday morning session

President Russell M. Nelson denounced abuse as a grievous sin and an abomination at the close of the Saturday morning session of the 192nd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
22 hours ago
Sister Tracy Y. Browning, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, speaks during the Sat...
Josh Ellis

Sister Tracy Y. Browning becomes first Black woman to give conference talk

Sister Tracy Y. Browning, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, became the first Black woman to speak in a general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
22 hours ago
Women hold signs and chant slogans during a protest over the death of Iranian Mahsa Amini outside t...
Ashley Moser

Sandy woman can’t get in touch with family in Iran after country blocks internet

Eida, an Iranian-American from Utah, said watching what is happening to her family thousands of miles away in Iran is difficult, especially because she cannot reach them. 
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
Utah Pride Week co-director retiring after more than decade of planning Pride