The end of the free festival

Posted on 14 Apr 2011 at 3:30pm

Announcement this week that there will be an admission fee to Lee Park after the parade marks a loss for the community

HARDY HABERMAN  |  Flagging Left

I am pretty sure everyone has heard me talk about the Alan Ross Freedom Parade. I am a fan of gay Pride parades, and though for some arcane reason we hold our parade in the most humid part of summer, it’s still a lot of fun and a good PR move for the LGBT community.

And then there is the party at Lee Park.

Since I wear leather during the parade, by the time I get to Lee Park, I pretty much just want to trudge back to my air-conditioned car and head home. Thus is the life of an aging leatherman.

Others stay at the park and enjoy the music and speeches during what had been one of the best-attended, free outdoor events for the community. I use the past tense because the Dallas Tavern Guild, the association who took the parade over in 1982, plans to charge a $5 admission for the “Festival in Lee Park” starting this year.

Additionally, they will allow no coolers or alcohol in the park. Of course, they will happily sell you beer and soft drinks at hefty prices, but according to the organizers it’s not their fault: They actually blame the terrorists, or at least the Homeland Security Act passed after 9/11.

Whatever the reason, it will be a loss for the community. Damned few things are free nowadays and the Lee Park gathering was something that felt organic and fun.

Yes I know they have charged to set up booths for organizations at the park, and I know they provide sound systems, port-a-potties and pay the city to clean up the mess. I don’t begrudge them one cent of that.

What I miss was the idea that it was, at least on the surface, a real community event.

The park gathering was a chance for the LGBT community to actually experience being together for a change. As the Gayborhood becomes more gentrified and development crowds out more and more gay-owned or gay-friendly businesses, it’s nice to able to just be with a big group of LGBT folks and their allies. Those kinds of experiences are becoming far and few between.

So as for myself, I will still don my leather and ride or walk in the parade. There will undoubtedly be thousands of people lining the streets to cheer and enjoy the floats and entries. I will throw beads and goodies to LGBT and straight people alike and for some of them — especially the kids who attend — it will be a positive experience.

Those positive associations with LGBT people are valuable for the future.

Some day the old bigots will die off and leave a “post-Will & Grace” generation in charge who see LGBT people as just another part of their world.

They will remember the fun of the parade, the outrageous costumes and the beads and trinkets. They will most likely have a lot less animosity toward LGBT people than their parents, and that’s a good thing for everyone.

There is far too much hate in this world, so a little fun and frivolity and outrageousness is almost always appreciated.

So I will be in the parade, and for now that is still a free event. For now.

I suspect in a couple of years the Halloween street party on Cedar Springs will have an admission fee, too. Funny how Homeland Security hasn’t necessitated that yet? Oh well, those durned terrorists are sure to spoil that fun as well.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

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