Boise Pride needs a lot more money to light Idaho Capitol with rainbow colors. Here’s why

The Boise Pride Festival is soliciting donations to continue its tradition of lighting the Idaho Capitol building with rainbow colors.

That’s because officials who oversee the Statehouse are enforcing a policy that prohibits projecting light on the building from the Capitol grounds. The Pride festival was exempt from the policy in recent years, but that won’t be the case when the event gets underway Sept. 8.

Festival organizers said they still intend to light up the iconic Boise building using more powerful lighting equipment from a farther distance across the street. It will cost three times as much to project rainbow colors representing LGBTQ+ pride on the building from the new Jefferson Street location, organizers said in a Tuesday news release.

“We must show the state that Boise Pride will not go dark,” the organizers said. “Especially in this climate when so many seek to erase our pride and stop us from being who we are.”

The lead-up to last year’s Boise Pride Festival was overshadowed by political controversy over a “Drag Kids” event. Several corporate and government sponsors withdrew their support for the festival amid pressure from conservative Idaho lawmakers and activists, who opposed children’s involvement in a dance performance that was later canceled.

The Idaho Department of Administration, which oversees events on state property, prohibits light displays on the Capitol grounds. Interim Director Lori Wolff told the Idaho Statesman that the policy dates back to 2018, but the department has made exceptions, including for the Pride festival.

Department leaders decided to enforce the policy more consistently in May, Wolff said by email. The department this year has denied requests to light the Capitol for events commemorating World Day of Remembrance, Mental Health Month, National Stillbirth Prevention Day and the Fourth of July, Wolff said.

“Based on several requests from organizations requesting to light the Capitol with various symbols and colors, we recognized the subjectivity of approving these requests,” she said. “There were exceptions to the policy in the past few years, and it became difficult to find objective criteria for approving or disapproving these requests.”

The policy addresses requests to physically place lights on the Capitol Mall, which “presents issues for hazards such as tripping, fire, damage and obstructions to other users,” Wolff added.

Boise Pride Festival organizers set aside $5,000 in their budget for the the event to light the Capitol this year, but another $10,000 is needed to do it from afar, the news release said. The tradition “has never cost the state of Idaho or its taxpayers anything at all,” the release noted.

Festival organizers are requesting donations to cover the increased costs. As of Wednesday afternoon, $410 had been raised.