By Melissa Garcia
DENVER, Colo. (CBS4) – Thousands gathered in Denver to honor the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando.
Festival-goers attending Denver’s 41st annual PrideFest at Civic Center Park showed their support for the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community and for the families who lost a loved one.
Organizers put up a large memorial for the victims of the shooting in the center of the park. It started out as a plain black box-like structure and soon transformed into a colorful show of strength with thousands of positive messages written in chalk.
Attendees said that the weekend festival took on a somewhat different tone than in past years due to the recent tragedy at a Florida night club.
People at PrideFest were celebrating freedom of gender and sexual identity, while also remembering the victims and survivors of the attack.
“I think it’s really good to show support and show that they’re not alone,” said Danica Cox, who came to Denver from the small town of Swink to attend PrideFest. “While there was one person who created horror in a lot of people’s lives, there are a lot of people that love and that do good things.”
Tracy Schmidt, also attending PrideFest, moved to Denver in 2012 after living in Orlando for 40 years.
“It breaks my heart that somebody could just hate so much to go and kill innocent people,” Schmidt said.
The attack also hit too close to home for Joel Contreras.
“My cousin … that club is one of her favorite places, and she could have been there,” Contreras said. “But this event just brought us all together, and we’re not going to be taken down.”
Rex Fuller, Vice President of Communications at the GLBT Community Center, which organized PrideFest, agreed.
“Though this is a tragic event, we’re not going to let it scare us back into the closet,” Fuller said.
Fuller said that PrideFest had been working closely with the Office of Emergency Management, Denver police, and private security to ensure the safety of festival attendees.
“It’s certainly understandable to be nervous in the light of recent events, however, we have received no threats here at all,” said Fuller. “So I feel very confident about everybody’s safety that way.”
Fuller said that a rally would take place at PrideFest on Sunday to formally acknowledge the victims of the Orlando shooting. The rally was scheduled to happen at noon in the Greek amphitheater in Civic Center Park.