A new parade route and a new festival location chosen to accommodate what is expected to be the largest crowd in event’s 35-year history
Fort Worth celebrates Pride with a parade, a festival and a picnic this weekend. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Tarrant County Gay Pride celebration, making it the second-oldest Pride celebration in Texas (Houston’s Pride celebration is the oldest).
The year the Tarrant County Pride parade will be following a new route, and the festival has moved to a new location, all intended to help accommodate what organizers expect to be the largest crowd in the event’s history.
The parade steps off at noon on Saturday, Oct. 1 at noon across from the Tarrant County Courthouse on Weatherford Street, then turns down Commerce Street to end at the Water Gardens. In the years since moving downtown, the parade route has been from the courthouse through downtown to General Worth Square, on the north side of the Fort Worth Convention Center where the festival was set up.
But the parade has grown. Last year, Fort Worth police estimated that 22,000 people attended the parade and festival. This year, the Fort Worth Visitors Bureau and Fort Worth police expect about 30,000.
“We outgrew it,” said parade organizer Tony Coronado, referring to the old festival location.
So with additional booths and more attendees, the parade won’t be snaking through downtown as it has for the past few years, but remain on Commerce Street. The new festival location in the Fort Worth Water Gardens is just south of the convention center, adding several blocks to the parade route.
For security, the festival will be fenced, with bicycle barricades and an admission fee of $1.
The Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association that stages Fort Worth’s Pride events does a good job of reaching out to other Pride organizations. New Mexico Pride, San Antonio Pride and San Marcos Pride will all participate in Fort Worth’s parade. Fort Lauderdale Pride is tentative, Coronado said.
Fort Worth has helped mentor some of the other Texas Pride organizations, including the one in San Marcos, Coronado said. He added that Tarrant County Pride members attended the San Marcos Pride event on Sept. 10, and were pleased to see that the celebration had good community and business support.
At San Marcos Pride, Coronado said he met members of the newly formed Starbucks Pride Alliance, which also marched in the Dallas parade two weeks ago. They’ll be marching in Fort Worth as well.
“Doing other Prides, we meet people we wouldn’t ordinarily meet,” Coronado said.
Fort Worth’s police liaison, Kathi Jones attended Pride celebrations in Austin, San Antonio and San Marcos with members of TCGPWA. When they were in San Antonio, a candidate for Bexar County sheriff who’s expected to win, stopped to talk Jones about her job as a liaison so that he can add a similar position to his office. Coronado said he is proud that his organization facilitated that.
Carrying the banner at the front of this year’s parade will be the Briggle family. The family recently hosted Attorney General Ken Paxton for dinner in their home, after Paxton sued the federal government for releasing guidelines on accommodating trans students in schools.
Grand marshals are David Reed, Rhonda Mae and Carol Cappa. Dallas Bears and First Congregational Church are honorary grand marshals.
Rhonda Mae started the Wall of Food shows for the AIDS Outreach Center food pantry. At first she raised money, but then people began bringing cans of food, “So she’d lay it on the stage and stack it and it became a wall of food,” Coronado explained.
Reed is president of Tarrant County Lesbian and Gay Alliance and has been an AIDS awareness advocate for 20 years. Cappa is co-chair of
Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats and vice president of Stonewall Democrats of Texas.
First Congregational Church is a United Church of Christ congregation, the same denomination to which Dallas’ Cathedral of Hope belongs.
“They’ve been with us for six years and do the kids area at the picnic,” Coronado said of the church. “We have more allies working with us than ever before.”
Dallas Bears is being honored for its 10 years of support, volunteering and fundraising for the community and for TCGPWA.
The annual Pride picnic will be held from noon-6 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 2, at Trinity Park, along the Trinity River near the Museum District.
Three people have been nominated for the Raina Lea Community Service Award — David Henderson, Ruby Harse and Rachel Carr. The award will be presented during the picnic Sunday.
Henderson is president and a founder of Fairness Fort Worth, the organization that formed immediately after the Raid on the Rainbow
Lounge. He is currently hospitalized after being recently diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer.
Henderson is “stubborn and focused, with his heart always in the right place for his LGBT brothers and sisters,” Coronado said, adding with a laugh, “And he’s really not as bad as everything thinks.”
Harse is vice president of Fort Worth PFLAG. She’s a regular parade and picnic supporter and volunteers with Q Cinema, the Tarrant County AIDS Walk and Fairness Fort Worth. On LGBT lobby days, she’s down at the state capitol advocating for her son and LGBT families.
Carr is treasurer of Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats, secretary of PFLAG Fort Worth and president of DFW TG Ladies. She’s a frequent panelist speaking on trans issues, and she coordinates and presents the LGBT portion of the diversity awareness training required for all Fort Worth Police Academy recruits.
The picnic site plan also features better security this year, Coronado said. As with Dallas’ Pride festival in September, organizers haven’t gotten any specific warnings or threats of violence targeting their events. But they still plan to have more security efforts in place and police will be on high alert in light of violent attacks at a gay nightclub in Orlando and on Dallas police following a Black Lives Matter march over the summer.
Pride week kicked off on Thursday, Sept. 29 with an early evening bike ride with Mayor Betsy Price that began in Trinity Park.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2016.