Rain won’t stop Pride parade, Festival at Reverchon, and extra security measures will keep everyone safe, organizers say
Rain or shine, the largest Pride parade in Dallas history will hit the streets of Oak Lawn on Sunday afternoon, while the Festival in Reverchon Park also goes on as planned.
The 33rd annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade steps off at 2 p.m., and the Festival in Reverchon Park runs from noon to 7 p.m.
“We are already working on our back-up plan, our Plan B,” Dallas Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman said earlier this week as weather forecasters predicted a growing chance of rain for parade day on Sunday, Sept. 18. “If it rains, nothing changes with the parade. We will just have to rearrange the layout of some parts of the festival.
“The rain never seems to really deter the crowd anyway,” he added. “People don’t seem to mind the rain, and the upside is, it usually turns cooler if there’s rain. Besides, the weather forecasts change all the time around here.
Last year, there was a 60 percent chance of rain for parade day, and all we got was a little sprinkle on that Saturday as we were setting up in the park, and nothing on Sunday.
“We have our game plan in place. Everyone already knows what to do if we go to Plan B,” Doughman declared.
“That’s the life of an outdoor event.”
Doughman said the 2016 Pride parade will have, counting the VIP and sponsor entries, about 128 entries in all.
“That’s the biggest it’s ever been,” he said. “We have a lot of new corporate entries this year, like Mercedes Benz Financial. And Police Chief David Brown’s appearance in the parade will likely be his last public appearance before he retires.”
While there will, as usual, be plenty of participants who walk or march along the parade route, or who traverse Cedar Springs Road riding home-made floats, this year’s parade should also have a record number of professionally constructed and decorated floats, too.
“Clyde Watts with Lone Star Floats [on Westmoreland Road] tells us this is the most floats he’s ever built for the Dallas Pride parade. He said he built somewhere between 35 and 40 floats, which is a record number. And of course, that doesn’t count the floats that the participants build and decorate themselves,” Doughman said.
The parade will — as it has since the early years — start at the intersection of Cedar Springs Road and Wycliff Avenue, with participants lining up down Wycliff toward the Maple Avenue intersection. Entries will then move southeast down Cedar Springs, across Oak Lawn Avenue to Turtle Creek Boulevard, turning south there to Maple Avenue before ending up at Reverchon Park, where the Festival will already be in full swing.
It is the Festival in Reverchon Park that faces the largest number of changes should weather forecasts hold true and the rain comes. That’s because the city’s parks department has some “very strict policies about driving [on the grass] in the park if the ground is wet,” Doughman said.
“We already have a secondary location planned for the main stage, and we will need to re-arrange some of the booths. If it does rain, the Family Pride Zone won’t be able to have the train they had planned, because it would be too heavy to drive it across the grass to the sidewalk in that area, and Toyota wouldn’t be able to park their display truck on the grass,” he said. “Other than that, nothing would be cut from the festival at all.”
One of the big draws of this year’s festival, which will feature more than 130, will be the main stage performance by singer/songwriter and reality TV star Erika Jayne. Since 2007, Jayne has had eight singles reach No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart. She released her latest single, “How Many Fucks?,” this past April.
Jayne is also one of the stars of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Other performers will include Mi Diva Loca, the duet of Mel Arizpe and Laura Carrizales, the 2010 Dallas Voice of Pride duet winners, and the country-rock party band Big City Outlaws, along with this year’s Voice of Pride winner, Alvaro Ramalho. In between, local DJs will keep the party going.
Doughman said the menu of available foods and beverages will be expanded this year, as has the shuttle system moving Pride partiers from the Cedar Springs strip to the park and more.
“The shuttle bus system will be a huge asset,” Doughman said, adding that the large buses that had trouble navigating narrow streets and tight turns between The Strip and Reverchon Park last year have been replaced with smaller, more agile 36-passenger shuttles. The shuttle routes have also been expanded, with buses taking people back and forth between the Legacy of Love Monument, at Cedar Springs and Oak Lawn, and Reverchon Park, and also between the park and the various LGBT nightclubs in the area.
(A map of the parade route and a list of parade entries can be found on pages 38 and 39 of this issue of Dallas Voice. The Official Guide to Dallas Pride 2016, distributed earlier this month with Dallas Voice and available at locations around Oak Lawn, has additional information on parade entries festival booths and more.)
Admission to the festival in previous years has been $5, but this year it goes up to $10. Doughman said the increase — which organizers discussed with community members first — will help cover the costs of bringing in Erika Jayne to perform, and also the costs of additional security measures.
“We talked to people around the community, and said we could either keep the admission fee for the festival at $5 and go only with local talent, or we could go up to $10 and bring in a bigger-name artist,” Doughman said. “Everybody said increase the price and bring in a bigger name. We’ve gotten a lot of positive responses.”
The additional security, he continued, was something that not just parade organizers wanted, but that city — and federal — officials insisted on.
“When we started planning for this year, [the shooting at Pulse nightclub in] Orlando hadn’t happened yet,” Doughman said. “As the year as gone on and things have happened, Homeland Security has put even more regulations in place regarding events like this. That means we need more officers, SWAT, an advance team, a shadow team — and that starts really eating up the money.
“We had been expecting this to be a banner year,” Doughman continued. “We were expecting to be able to give significant donations to our beneficiaries — AIDS Interfaith Network, AIDS Services of Dallas and Legacy Counseling Center. And we still may get that. It just depends on the weather and people’s commitment to attend and participate.”
Doughman acknowledged that the shooting in Orlando and other situations, including the tense atmosphere surrounding this year’s presidential contest, may have some people on edge. But, he reassured, security surrounding the event will be better than ever.
One aspect of increased security efforts is a ban on bringing non-transparent bags and backpacks into the park.
“If you bring a bag in, it doesn’t have to be plastic but it does have to be see-through. Security at the gate has to be able to see into whatever bag you are carrying, to see what’s inside,” Doughman said, noting that bans on coolers and glass containers were already in place.
The measure, he added, “shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. Most people know that’s already the policy at most places, like ATT Stadium and The Ballpark in Arlington, even the concerts at the American Airlines Center. It’s nothing out of the ordinary.”
That change, like others, Doughman said, “aren’t meant to inconvenience anybody. It’s just part of the effort to make all of us, all of our events, safer. There are extra layers of security in place this year, and some of those things we’re not at liberty to talk about. But we are trying to create an environment that sends the message that we are taking the steps necessary to make sure you are safe and can have a good time and still not take the energy out of the event.
“You don’t have to worry, and we don’t have to worry now, because we are doing everything we can to make sure you have a safe and enjoyable weekend.”
And if it rains? Who cares! That will just mean extra rainbows for everyone.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2016.