Colorado Springs PrideFest has evolved since it was founded a quarter century ago as a gathering of solidarity and support for those in the LGBTQ community.
"It started as marches and protests when our community was being discriminated against by the general public," PrideFest president and event coordinator Nic Grzecka said. "As LGBT has become more socially acceptable and we've overcome battles and gotten more equal rights - even though there are more to be won - it's turned into a celebration to remember where we've come from."
Grzecka, 36, is old enough to appreciate, but too young to remember, one catalyzing time in the early 1990s, after Colorado voters adopted an amendment - later struck down as unconstitutional - prohibiting any governing entity from enacting laws or policies protecting against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
"It was almost like the ones that are going around now that are being overturned, but this was 20 years ago so this was something that was a big fight for our community. It was everybody rallying and coming together to fight those kinds of hate bills," said Grzecka, who owns Club Q and V Bar in the Springs.
Today, PrideFest leans more toward celebration, with a weekend-long schedule of events and live entertainment starting Friday with Simply Sensational: Together in Song, by a chorus of 250 voices from Out Loud, including the Colorado Springs Men's Chorus, Denver Gay Men's Chorus and San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. Later highlights include performances by "Rhythm Is a Dancer" hit-maker Thea Austin and "American Idol" finalist David Hernandez.
Saturday is family day, with face painting, a host of kid-friendly activities, and a parade, starting at 11 a.m. Sunday at Cimarron and Tejon streets.
"With all the recent tragedies, we will have heightened security obviously," Grzecka said.
Despite the festival's evolution as street fete and outreach opportunity, it still serves a pivotal role for many within the LGBTQ community who might be struggling with identity and acceptance, Grzecka said.
"Sometimes people can't celebrate who they are in their everyday lives. Sometimes they need to see who they are around other people and celebrate who they are without judging, where everybody around them supports them," he said. "PrideFest gives them that chance."
10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, America the Beautiful Park, 126 Cimino Drive, $2; coloradospringspridefest.com.
Something else: Simply Sensational: Together in Song, a chorus of 250 voices from Out Loud, including the Colorado Springs Men's Chorus, Denver Gay Men's Chorus and San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus; 7:30 p.m. Friday, First United Methodist Church, 420 N. Nevada Ave.; $10 suggested donation to benefit Citizens Project and victims of the Orlando shooting