Organizers expect record numbers to turn out for Dallas’ annual Pride parade and festival this weekend
That’s the byword for Dallas’ Pride events taking place this weekend.
From the 32nd annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade to the Festival in the Park in its new location, and all the various parties planned over the course of the weekend, Dallas LGBT community will have a chance to commemorate what has been a banner year for LGBT equality.
“We have been average attendance of about 35,000 to 40,000 for the parade and festival over the last several years. But we are expecting attendance this year to be much higher than that,” noted Michael Doughman, executive director of Dallas Tavern Guild, which puts on the parade and festival each fall.
“People are celebrating all the positive things that are happening this year — marriage is one — and we are expecting record numbers of people to come out,” he added.
And parade and festival organizers are offering those who come out plenty to enjoy.
Doughman said there are 89 paid entries in this year’s parade, but with the VIP and sponsor entries the total number of entries will top 120. Those VIP entries will include Dallas Police Chief David Brown, Fire Chief Louie Bright along with former Mayor
Laura Miller, who will be on the Tavern Guild Float with current Dallas City Council members.
“We are really glad to have Laura Miller in the parade again this year. She was the first mayor of Dallas to be in the Pride parade,” Doughman said. “We also have former council members coming back this year as judges — Veletta Lill, Chris Luna and Lois Finkelman. As we celebrate the Supreme Court’s ruling this summer on marriage equality, we wanted to bring back some of the people who were on the council back when the city was working to adopt the city ordinance” protecting LGBT people from discrimination.
Longtime community activists Patti Fink and Evilu “Pridge” Pridgeon were chosen as grand marshals of this year’s parade. It is the first time that the two grand marshals were chosen “at large,” as it were, rather than having one female and one male grand marshal. This year, potential grand marshals were nominated by the community, and then at the end of a specified online voting period, the two nominees — regardless of gender — were named grand marshals.
Country music star Ty Herndon — who came out publicly last November — comes back to Dallas as honorary grand marshal of the parade. He will also perform during the Festival in the Park.
Doughman said those attending the parade can expect to see some major new corporate partners coming down Cedar Springs Road on Sunday, including Toyota. which signed on this year as presenting sponsor of the Family Pride Zone at the Festival in the Park. T-Mobile is another major new partner, coming in this year as presenting sponsor of the Miller Lite Festival in the Park.
Andrews Distributing, Heineken and Miller Lite are all founding partners of the parade and the festival.
Virgin Airlines is also new the parade/festival family this year, Doughman continued, and comes in as the official airline of Pride in Dallas. “There’s no American Airlines this year,” he said, noting that the sponsor agreement with American had ended and the airline did not step up with a new sponsorship offer.
“We looked at all the airlines who wanted to be the official airline for Pride, and we found a lot of support and really strong diversity within Virgin as a corporation,” he added. “That’s why we went with them.”
Doritos will have an entry in the parade and a booth at the festival, Doughman said, and the chip company is offering those attending the festival a chance to be the first to see their new Pride-themed product.
“Doritos is a lead sponsor this year and will be in the parade as part of the Pepsico Company entry, because Pepsico is the parent company,” Doughman said. “But Doritos, which is a corporate partner with the It Gets Better campaign, will have its own booth at the festival. They will be giving out bags of Doritos to folks who come by the booth. But anyone who goes by their booth and makes a donation to It Gets Better will get something special — they will get a bag of the new rainbow-colored Doritos.
“These are brand new,” Doughman said. “We are the first Pride to have them. They are debuting the rainbow-colored Doritos right here in Dallas.”
Doughman noted that officials will start shutting down streets around the parade route at noon. The parade itself steps off at 2 p.m., with entries lining up along Wycliff Avenue west of Cedar Springs Road, then moving down Cedar Springs along the same route the parade has taken for decades. The same route, at least, right up to the point where entries have traditionally turned left to move down Turtle Creek to Lee Park.
This year, the festival will be held instead in Reverchon Park, a move prompted by the fact that it is easier and less expensive to provide the necessary fencing and security required by the city.
“Having the new location for the festival is very exciting for us,” Doughman said. “And we are very excited at the line-up we have.”
Entertainment during the festival includes music by DJ Brandon Moses and performances by Voice of Pride winner Vanessa Guzman and other VoP contestants, Mi Diva Loca and Chaz Marie and the Band.
“The grand marshals will speak, and [Herndon] is doing a full 90-minute concert with his band,” Doughman said. “Then after he finishes, we will hand out the awards.
“We are thrilled to have Ty Herndon here this year as our honorary grand marshal and to perform at our festival. We think it is very timely and very appropriate to have this out country/western star as part of our celebration,” he continued. “He is doing a lot to break down barriers in the world of country music. He just recently hosted a big diversity fundraiser in Nashville. We are very excited to have him here for Pride.”
Doughman noted that representatives of tourism boards from both Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada will have booths at the Festival in the Park this year. “Our festival is very affordable for people to participate in, and DFW is really very accessible from all parts of the country.
“On top of that, the tourism boards in more and more cities are reaching out more and more to the LGBT community, so we expect the number of [tourism boards attending Dallas Pride] to continue to grow.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 18, 2015.