LifeWalk steps off Sunday in Lee Park

Nobles says that park will not be fenced this year but is worried about added cost and barrier affecting next year’s event

KICKING UP THEIR HEELS | The LifeWalk organizing committee gets ready for Sunday.

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

New requirements by the city of Dallas could affect proceed totals from this year’s AIDS Arms LifeWalk, and at least one more new requirement is expected to be added to the list next year, according to LifeWalk organizers.

The 21st annual LifeWalk steps off from Lee Park on Oct. 2 at 1 p.m. for the 3.2-mile walk. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m. Last year’s event raised $401,000 and this year’s goal is $500,000.

Although thousands of people are expected for the event, Lee Park will remain unfenced this year, even though the city has said such gatherings will require fencing in the future.

Officials with the Dallas Tavern Guild, which stages the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and the Festival in Lee Park each year as part of Dallas’ annual LGBT Pride celebration, decided to get ahead of the new requirement by fencing in Lee Park this year for the festival, although the city requirement had not yet gone into effect.

Tavern Guild officials also chose to charge a $5 admission fee to the festival this year to help offset expenses and raise extra funds that will be distributed to parade beneficiaries.

The admission fee raised the ire of some in the community, and attendance at the festival was down compared to last year. But Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman said the drop was not significant, and noted that the admission fee brought in about $25,000 that will be divided among beneficiaries.

But AIDS Arms Executive Director Raeline Nobles said new city requirements have already had an impact on LifeWalk, and she is worried that the new fencing requirements could affect next year’s walk.

“There were a lot more expenses from the city this year,” she said. “It really hits the bottom line.”

The cost of fencing next year will add an additional, unwelcome expense. But Nobles said she isn’t going to worry about that until after this weekend’s event. Right now, her main concern is getting people out to participate in this year’s fundraiser.

“Anyone can participate in LifeWalk,” Nobles said. “You can walk alone or bring friends or join a team. We even have poop-out vans: In case you can’t walk the entire three-mile route, someone will pick you up and bring you back to the park to have a good time.”

She also invited people to just come to the park and cheer.

“We need cheerleaders at the start and finish and at the water stations,” Nobles said. “We have pompoms for anyone who wants to cheer the walkers on.”

Registration for LifeWalk is $40 for people and $10 for dogs participating in LifeBark. People get a T-shirt and dogs get a bandana to show their support for people with HIV.

AIDS Arms is the primary beneficiary of LifeWalk, but other organizations also receive funds from the event, including AIDS Services of Dallas, Legal Hospice of Texas, Turtle Creek Chorale, The Women’s Chorus, Bryan’s House, Resource Center Dallas and the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund.

Money raised goes toward programming rather than capital costs. The chorale uses funds for their HIV fund, including giving tickets to performances through the year to people with AIDS.

Nobles praised that effort, saying that socializing is an important holistic element in treating HIV.

The Women’s Chorus will present a program at AIDS Arms in March on National HIV Women’s Day. Those expenses, Nobles said, should be covered by the group’s LifeWalk proceeds.

Nobles said it would be tempting for AIDS Arms to use the money to finish paying off the agency’s new Trinity Health and Wellness Center in Oak Cliff. She said that the new facility cost more than $2 million, and AIDS Arms needs to raise just $35,000 more to pay off the facility.

Trinity Health and Wellness Center opened in September and will have its formal grand opening in two weeks.

But despite the temptation, AIDS Arms will instead use proceeds from LifeWalk to support programs for clients at Trinity as well as at AIDS Arms’ older clinic, Peabody Health Center in South Dallas.

AIDS Arms also uses the money to administer HIV tests to more than 3,500 people a year and for case management for more than 3,400 people.

LifeWalk began in 1990 as a fundraiser for Oak Lawn Community Services. When that agency closed, management of the event moved to AIDS Arms.

LifeWalk Co-chair Marvin Green noted that his Green Team will mark its 20th year of participation in LifeWalk. He said he put the team together for the first time in the second year of LifeWalk because he had already lost 20 friends to AIDS.

That first year, three team members raised $75. This year, the 32-member Green Team has collected about $22,000.

Co-chair Fred Harris said that there were quite a few new teams this year.

“We’re reaching out to new communities,” Harris said. “There’s new energy. We’re branching outside Oak Lawn.”

He said teams are using creative new ways to raise money and AIDS Arms has actively brought in new sponsors such as Chipotle.

“Stoli is coming with a first-ever LifeWalk drink,” Nobles said. Returning sponsor Caven Enterprises will serve beer and Ben E. Keith donated iced tea.

Harris said planning has gone well, and that “LifeWalk is a well-oiled machine.”

Harris said he has seen more use of social media this year than ever, reaching out to people outside the Metroplex.

“This year Facebook has become a very powerful tool,” he said, not just for fundraising but also for recruiting walkers.

Last year, about 3,500 people walked, and this year, “Registration is ahead of where we were this time last year,” Harris said.

Waterpalooza, another AIDS Arms event, was moved to Pride weekend this year, just two weeks prior to LifeWalk. Harris said they took advantage of that event to sign up teams and walkers and generate excitement for this weekend’s walk.

Among the new teams, Harris said, are the DFW Sisters.

“Their efforts have been tireless,” he said. “They raise the bar.”

Nobles said that WFAA Channel 8 morning anchor Ron Corning will serve as M.C. in Lee Park. Although he’s appeared at several events since arriving in Dallas, this is the first big public event the openly gay television host has emceed.

LifeWalk received the Human Rights Campaign family-friendly designation, and Nobles said there will be bounce houses, clowns and face-painting for children.

Harris said the event is pet-friendly as well, “because pets are our family.”

There will be games and puppy pools for dogs as well as doggie adoptions, Nobles said.

She said the day would be a lot of fun but asked people to participate because the need is greater than ever.

“With the growth in the number of newly-infected people in Dallas County who need help in this economy, we’re seeing people who never would ask but must,” she said.

Next year, Nobles said, she would like to see LifeWalk return to Oak Lawn, but new city regulations for events may change those plans. Among the events changing plans this year because of the city involved Lone Star Ride.

Last year, Lone Star Riders participated in LifeWalk on bike. This year, city regulations banned bikes from walks so LSR riders who participate will have to walk.

Green was thinking about bigger plans for future LifeWalks. Other cities that raise more money stage longer walks. He said he’d love to use the new Downtown Deck Park that should be completed next year and dreamed of seeing LifeWalkers crossing the new suspension bridge that should be open in March 2012.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Skate the night away

It’s been a while since LGBTs would trek out every week to Grand Prairie to Forum Roller World for gay skate night, a hit with the community that eventually fizzled away. Never fully deterred, though, Don Blaylock — who used to DJ the event — decided it’s time to bring it back.

“People loved it before,” he says. “I thought it would be great to bring back and have something for people to do.”

Blaylock says that interest had already been brewing when he started handing out flyers on the street.

“The response has been so positive,” he says. “There is an unbelievable interest in it.”

Just don’t expect to find info about it online. Blaylock is old-school and doesn’t do things on “the computer” too much. (Advice to Mr. Blaylock: Facebook is so much easier.)

“I’m just doing it by good ol’ word of mouth,” he laughs. “I’m stuck in the ’70s.”

Skate night won’t be the same as before in two ways. First, Blaylock is not returning to the DJ booth. Instead, he’s in talks with the rink DJ to play tunes that will work for the fabulous crowd as well as for the regular weekend skaters.

Second, it’s going from a weekly event to monthly. Figuring that overexposure may have contributed to waning interest the first time, skate night will be every third Saturday of the month, but this first one will be Friday.

“I just wanted to get it going and began planning it before I thought about it too long,” he says.

Skate nights will begin at a meeting place for a quick energy-boosting nosh, then skaters will roll off to InterSkate Roller Rink in Lewisville. For now the cost will be the admission fee at InterSkate and people can bring their own wheels.

—Rich Lopez

Gay Skate Night, June 17. Meet at Hunky’s, 3940 Cedar Springs Road, at 6:30 p.m., then InterSkate Roller Rink, 1408 S. Highway 121, Lewisville at 8:30 p.m. $3. InterSkate.net. 214-207-7430

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Dallas Tavern Guild to charge admission to Festival in Lee Park during gay Pride

CHANGES COMING | Spectators line Cedar Springs to watch the 2010 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade. Traditionally, the crowds have trekked down to Lee Park after the parade each year for the free Festival in Lee Park. This year, though, the park will be fenced in and there will be a $5 admission fee. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)
Michael Doughman

Doughman says increased expenses, dangerous drinking levels in park led to changes

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Dallas Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman confirmed this week that organizers will be charging a $5 admission fee to the annual Festival in Lee Park following the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade in September.

Admission to the parade will still be free. The Tavern Guild, an organization of nightclubs catering to the LGBT community, took over planning, organizing and presenting the parade in the early 1980s.

Doughman said the park will be fenced in for the festival, due to new requirements by the city for outdoor events. Those attending the festival also will no longer be able to bring in coolers and glass containers of all kinds are banned.

The changes were prompted, Doughman said, by changes in requirements imposed by the city and by “polite warnings” from Dallas police and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission that drinking during the festival was getting seriously out of hand.

But Doughman also acknowledged that the admission fee is intended to increase revenue, too.

“Being able to donate proceeds back to our beneficiary organizations has always been a major focus of the parade. But ever since the Homeland Security Act passed after 9/11, and the security requirements have gone up, the money we are able to donate back to our beneficiaries has been dwindling,” Doughman said. “We used to be able to donate $20,000 to $25,000, and we had three or four beneficiaries. Now, we’re lucky if we have $7,500 or $8,000 to give back to our one beneficiary [Youth First Texas].”

Doughman said that the cost of meeting city requirements has tripled since 2001. Part of that, he said, is due to increased security requirements in place since the passage of the Homeland Security Act.

“It used to be that we had to have 35 to 45 officers on duty for the parade. Last year, there were 102 officers,” he said. “We have to rent more barricades for blocking of the streets, and those barricades cost more to rent now than before. We have no control over those costs. On top of that, the materials and equipment we need to put on the parade costs more now, too — the port-o-lets, the radios, the golf carts. We’ve done nothing to reflect that cost back to [parade and festival attendees] until now.

“We think $5 is a minimal charge for people to attend, and charging that small admission fee means we may possibly be able to give more back to our beneficiaries, and maybe we can have two or three beneficiaries, like we used to do, instead of just one,” he said.

Doughman said the other main reason for fencing in the park and charging admission is to give parade organizers better control over the crowd.

“The last two or three years, it’s gotten really bad” in terms of celebration attendees drinking to excess and ending up being a danger to themselves and others, Doughman said.
“The Dallas police officers have been very kind about the way they have handled it, but we have been warned by the police and by TABC, and we had to be proactive in doing something to address the issue. It is a huge liability for [the Tavern Guild],” he said.

Doughman said that even though hard liquor has always been prohibited in the park, attendees have become more brazen about ignoring that ban.

“That’s a licensing issue. We only have a license for beer at the celebration, no hard liquor. If TABC were to do a sweep through there and find hard liquor, then we would be liable. They would take away our license and the city would never give us another permit for the parade or the celebration. That would be the end of Dallas Pride,” he said.

Doughman said incidences of excessive intoxication and underage drinking have increased noticeably over the past two or three years, and that police warned organizers the problem had to be addressed.

“There have been people walking around with open bottles of vodka. Last year, there were two young girls with a big jug of whiskey,” he said. “It’s gotten out of hand, and we have to be proactive in addressing the problem. Last year, we had two girls come up who had gotten separated from their friends. They were so intoxicated they couldn’t even speak coherently. We couldn’t even understand them when they told us their names and who they were looking for.

“What if someone comes to the festival, gets that drunk and then leaves the park and walks out into the road in front of a car and is hurt or killed. We are liable for that. Or what if they get drunk at the festival and then get behind the wheel of a car and hurt or kill someone else?” he added.

Doughman noted that organizers “have no issue” with people bringing bottled water into the park, but no outside liquor or beer will be allowed. “TABC will have their eye on us this year, and we have to manage the alcohol better,” he said.

Doughman said the last thing organizers want to do is take all the fun out of the annual Pride celebration, and said that those who pay the $5 fee to attend the celebration in the park will get to see “bigger-name entertainment” than in past years, as well as have access to improved food service.

“We don’t want to take the fun out of things, but we have to do what we have to do to make sure this is a safe event and to make sure that we follow the rules and make enough money to pay our costs and still have money for our beneficiary,” Doughman said. “We want everyone to have a good time, and we want them to do that in a safe environment.”

—  John Wright

The end of the free festival

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.

—  John Wright

Festival no longer free: $5 admission announced for event in Lee Park following gay Pride parade

The 2010 Festival in Lee Park. This year, the park will be fenced and parade organizers will charge a $5 admission to help offset rising costs, Dallas Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman confirmed today. (Chuck Dube/Dallas Voice)

I just got off the phone with Dallas Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman, who confirmed for me rumors that there will, indeed, be an admission fee to the Pride Festival in Lee Park this year after the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade in September. Admission to the parade will still be free.

Doughman said the park will be fenced in for the festival, and there will be a $5 charge to enter the park for the event that traditionally winds up Dallas’ LGBT Pride celebration. This and other changes were prompted, he said, by changes in requirements imposed by the city and by “polite warnings” from Dallas police and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission that drinking during the event was getting seriously out of hand. But Doughman also acknowledged that the admission fee is intended to increase revenue, too.

“Being able to donate proceeds back to our beneficiary organizations has always been a major focus of the parade. But ever since the Homeland Security Act passed after 9/11, and the security requirements have gone up, the money we are able to donate back to our beneficiaries has been dwindling,” Doughman said. “We used to be able to donate $20,000 to $25,000, and we had three or four beneficiaries. Now, we’re lucky if we have $7,500 or $8,000 to give back to our one beneficiary [Youth First Texas].”

—  admin