Utah Pride Center cuts spending for festival, operating on ‘leaner model’ to address money issues

May 1, 2024, 10:54 PM | Updated: 11:03 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — As the 2024 installment of the Utah Pride Festival and Parade looms, the new leader of the sponsoring entity, the Utah Pride Center, says the organization is moving beyond the tumult that has characterized its operations for the past several months.

“We definitely are stable right now financially,” Chad Call, the new executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group, said Wednesday. “We do have a very stable path forward.”

It’s required a dramatic shifting of gears, though. Call says the organization has sold its former location to offset debt incurred in the 2023 festival, dramatically reduced planned spending for the 2024 installment of the event and slashed full-time staffing from around 23 to four, which includes a contractor.

“I don’t see us returning back to a 20-person staff anytime soon. I think that we are working off the leaner model now and more sustainable model,” he said at a press conference at the center’s new headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City. Financial stability and sustainability are key goals.

Likewise, planned spending for the Utah Pride Festival and Parade, scheduled for June 1 and 2, has been cut considerably from 2023. The Utah Pride Center, he said, stemmed from an apparent “gross overspend,” though a report into the matter isn’t yet complete. This year, spending on staging and production will be cut considerably, with a reliance on Utah talent to mitigate performance fees. Smaller stages will be used, and nighttime hours will be limited to reduce spending on lighting.

More specifically, the total production budget, just one element of the overall spending plan, reflects an 80% reduction from 2023, he said, back to a level more on par with 2022 spending.

Overspending on the 2023 festival led to upheaval in the organization as Pride Center officials wrestled with financial uncertainty in the aftermath of the event. The organization temporarily closed its doors to the public last September and the new executive director brought on about that time, Ryan Newcomb, stepped down in late March due to health reasons after about six months on the job. What some viewed as high booth prices, meantime, prompted grumbling among some in the lead-up to last year’s festival.

Call, who took over from Newcomb as interim executive director before formally taking on full-time leadership duties, acknowledged the frustration the tumult may have generated among some. At the same time, he defended the organization — which operates support groups for the LGBTQ community and, significantly, manages the pride parade and festival each year — as needed.

“There’s purpose in this organization. It’s clear to me that, despite all of the turmoil and change, that this organization is still wanted, and it’s still needed by the community,” he said.

The annual festival and parade probably impacts more people in the LGBTQ community than any other single event in Utah, he said. Moreover, he emphasized increased efforts to reach out to other LGBTQ organizations around Utah, which will be able to set up booths for free for the first time at this year’s festival.

“We want to support those organizations. We want to partner with them. We don’t want to compete with them,” he said. The parade will include more than 16,000 participants while 100,000 more are expected to watch.

Call had served as a volunteer for the Utah Pride Center before taking on executive director leadership duties. “This organization has been something that has meant a lot to me over the years, and it’s something that I have seen a lot of growth in and a lot of potential in,” he said.

He previously worked as a producer for WEBB Production, a corporate production company.

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Utah Pride Center cuts spending for festival, operating on ‘leaner model’ to address money issues