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

A decade of remembrance

RIDERLESS CARRIAGE | Ten years after 9/11, the American landscape looks far different — for gay rights as well.

What a difference a decade makes. In September of 2001, days after the loss of lives on 9/11 scarred America, the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade had a first: Instead of a grand marshal riding in the parade, a horse-drawn carriage remained empty, save for a sign reading “Dedicated to the victims lost in the tragedy of Sept. 11.”

Dallas Tavern Guild’s Michael Doughman remembers that moment as clearly as if it were yesterday, but for him, the carriage was a symbol beyond its intentions. Or at least, it became one.

“It was a sobering but very powerful moment when that carriage went by,” he recalls. “I’ve often thought about it and when I reflect that it’s been 10 years, I give thought to the progress that we’ve made as a country.”

That progress transcends into the LGBT community, as hot-button issues like “don’t ask, don’t tell” and same-sex marriages have developed in positive ways since 9/11 — whether directly or not. The empty carriage symbolized not only the loss of that fateful day, but also those lost in other battles.

“I saw that empty carriage and thought all the people that I had lost to AIDS, to cancer,” Doughman says. “I think it also represented a loss and absence in general. It was significant of more loss in other arenas, whether it was illness, or hate crimes or something else.”

Doughman say there are plans for a 9/11 acknowledgement at the beginning of this year’s parade. While details have not been finalized, he doesn’t want what happened then to disappear into history books. As time passes, he says, it serves as much more than just a memory.

“We’re aware that even 10 years later, commemorating helps us to keep vigilant,” he says, “for our rights, for everyone and for this country.”

— Rich Lopez

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Changes on tap for Pride festival

Organizers don’t expect decision to fence in Lee Park, ban outside alcohol at event following parade to have major impact on attendance

DOUGHMAN.Michael
Michael Doughman

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

When the Dallas Tavern Guild announced a $5 admission charge for Sunday’s Festival in Lee Park earlier this year, it led to some major backlash on social media networks and in the comments section of DallasVoice.com.

But Michael Doughman, executive director of the Tavern Guild, said the backlash hasn’t translated into significantly reduced interest in the event from vendors and nonprofit groups.
As of this week, only five fewer organizations had signed up for booths at the festival, which takes place before, during and after the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.

“We don’t consider that a loss in attendance at the park at all,” Doughman said. “We do have some nonprofit organizations that opted not to be in the park this year, and that’s certainly their choice. We don’t think that it’s going to harm anything.

“We have over 70 vendors already paid in the park,” Doughman added. “If that were the general consensus, a whole lot of those people wouldn’t be coming either, but they are.”

The Tavern Guild, which puts on both the parade and festival, chose to fence in the park this year to be proactive since the city plans to require it in the future, Doughman said.

The fencing will also allow the Tavern Guild to prevent people from bringing in their own alcohol, which Doughman says has become a problem.

“We’ve had a really, really rapid rise in the number of people [getting] highly intoxicated,” he said.

Those who want to consume alcohol at the festival this year will have to purchase it from vendors — who’ll be selling plastic bottles of beer at the same prices as before, $3 for domestics and $4 for imports, Doughman said.

Lori Chance, special events manager for the city of Dallas, confirmed that her office likely would have required the Pride festival to be fenced beginning in 2012.

“Typically anytime alcohol is involved, we require fencing, and that’s so they can control the ingress and egress,” Chance said. “We’re headed in that direction because of the alcohol. Their choice is to fence the entire park … or to make a secluded area for alcohol, and the alcohol has to stay in that area only.”

While the decision to fence in the festival was made in anticipation of the city requirement, Doughman said the $5 admission charge is designed to raise money for the event’s beneficiaries.

The Tavern Guild historically has donated a combined $20,000 to $25,000 to three or four beneficiaries. But in recent years, there’s been only $7,500 or $8,000 left over for one  beneficiary — Youth First Texas.
This year, the Tavern Guild has added AIDS Arms, AIDS Services of Dallas, AIDS Interfaith Network and Legacy Counseling Center.

“If you begrudge $5 to be divided among four of the AIDS services and YFT, then that’s not the spirit of Pride to begin with,” Doughman said. “It’s always been about raising money for the community.”

The Festival in Lee Park normally attracts about 7,500 people, and organizers are predicting a decline in attendance of up to 1,500 this year due to the admission charge, Doughman said. But even if attendance is as low as 5,000, it will still mean an extra $25,000 for the beneficiaries. In addition, Doughman said 25 percent of net proceeds from alcohol sales will go to the Texas Gay Rodeo Association, while 75 percent will go back to the Tavern Guild and its beneficiaries.

Still, not everyone is willing to pay the price.

Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin Republicans Dallas, said his group is among those that won’t have a booth at the festival this year because of the admission charge, which he called “a stupid business decision.”

Schlein said Log Cabin decided it wouldn’t be worth the $150 registration fee because of reduced attendance.

He said Log Cabin, which is also skipping the parade this year, used “free market principles” to make a statement.

“To have to pay for it just doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of gay Pride weekend,” Schlein said. “This is a tax on the gay Pride parade.”

Festival in Lee Park
Sunday, Sept. 18.
Park opens at 11 a.m.
No coolers, glass containers or alcohol can be brought into the park. There will be an exception for vendors who want to bring in coolers for volunteers. Admission is $5. ATM machines will be situated near festival entrances for those who don’t have cash. More info at www.DallasPrideParade.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

FEEBACK: Thanks!

Thanks!

We want to extend a very special “thank you” to all the merchants who donated to the Round Up Saloon’s annual Easter Basket Auction this year. And thanks as well go to the generous buyers who showed up to bid on and purchase the baskets.

We especially thank our staff that worked so hard to get the baskets decorated, cataloged and presented for sale. Louis Ramos coordinated the entire event, and our auctioneer, R.D., has donated his time now for 15 years to doing our auctions.

And to all the Resource Center Dallas staff, TGRA members, The Dallas Tap Dazzlers, Michael Doughman and all our donors, buyers and entertainers: THANK YOU!

We are proud to announce that $14,400 was donated to The Nutrition Center and TGRA as a result of the Easter Basket Auction. The economy and the crowds are returning, and this charitable event is back on the way to recovery following a couple of pretty lean years.

Again, thank you to everyone.

Gary Miller,
Round-Up Saloon

—  John Wright

Scenes from First Wednesday

The DFW Sisters light the Christmas Tree on the patio of TMC.

There was plenty going on last night, from a World AIDS Day event at the Cathedral of Hope to the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce’s Holiday Mixer at Maggiano’s. But @GetRichInDallas and I stayed true to our roots — and his wine addiction — as we hit up the strip for First Wednesday and the Christmas Tree Lighting. It was, quite frankly, a sparsely attended event, and the “Sexy Santa” wasn’t quite what we expected. But the wine — well, the chardonnay at least – flowed freely from upstairs at Union Jack, as the likes of the Oak Lawn Band and Mel Arizpe performed on the TMC patio. In short, a good time was had by all, especially those who like wine and cookies. A few more pics below.

—  John Wright

Angela Hunt says her separate entry in Sunday’s gay Pride parade was ‘not a political statement’

For Angela Hunt, it’s times like these that owning a convertible comes in handy.

Some may be wondering — as we were — why Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt had a separate entry in Sunday’s gay Pride parade instead of riding on the city of Dallas float with other councilmembers. Hunt’s separate entry prompted at least one local gay Republican to post a photo of the city float on his Facebook page and suggest that Hunt, whose district includes half of Oak Lawn, had missed the parade. That’s not true, of course. Hunt’s entry — consisting of her car, her husband and herself — came near the end of the procession.

Our first thought, to be honest, was whether this was an indication that Hunt plans to run for mayor next year. We thought maybe she was trying to show up current Mayor Tom Leppert, who was absent from Pride for the second time in four years. But it turns out Hunt’s separate parade entry wasn’t at all politically motivated, or even intentional.

Hunt explained to Instant Tea Tuesday morning that she missed the shuttle that takes councilmembers from Lee Park to the parade lineup. She was told initially that the shuttle would be returning for her, but it never did, and the parade start time of 2 o’clock had come and gone. Hunt said she and her husband began to panic. They quickly jumped in their car and hit the car wash (she says her husband insited that they couldn’t take the car in the gay parade without washing it). They then made a quick visit to CVS to pick up some poster board, magic markers and streamers. Hunt called parade organizer Michael Doughman and explained that she would be cutting him a check for the $250 entry fee.

“It was great fun but slightly stressful,” Hunt said. “I couldn’t miss the parade. My husband and I have been in it for five years, and we were determined not to miss the parade. It’s not a political statement, and I hated not getting to ride with my colleagues.”

—  John Wright

Pride organizers accused of anti-Republican hate

We’ve officially received the first of what undoubtedly will be several non-heat-related post-Pride complaints. After all, you can’t please everyone all the time. This one comes from Kit Elliott, who says he wants to lodge a “formal complaint” against Dallas Pride for alleged anti-Republican “hate” in the form of comments made by the MC prior to the start of the parade. “It must stop and it has to stop,” Elliot writes. Here’s his full e-mail, which we’ve forwarded to Michael Doughman, executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild:

I would like to lodge a formal complaint against the Dallas Pride Parade for their words and actions do not match their message. While the leaders have their own beliefs, they need to keep their message of hate to themselves. I showed up to the parade around 1:30 pm, and the first sentence out of the MC’s mouth was an anti-Republican statement — a “we hate Republicans joke.” This is offensive to the GLBT Republican community who believe in human rights and fiscal responsibility. I believe that you should infiltrate the community with those who accept us and change the mindset from within instead of “fighting” and excluding this group from an otherwise excluding world. Can you imagine being GAY and growing up with the discrimination that gays get and flocking to a community that accepts you just to feel that discrimination again from within the community. It must stop and has to stop! I will NOT tolerate a community of hate and discrimination, and Dallas Voice and the parade planners should NOT tolerate this either.

Please forward this on to the parade planners for next year.

Thanks!
Kit Elliott

—  John Wright

92 entries, 35,000 spectators expected for Pride parade

CLICK HERE TO READ SOME PRIDE SAFETY TIPS FROM LGBT LIAISON OFFICER LAURA MARTIN

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Dallas Pride Parade
COLORS OF PRIDE | Resource Center Dallas is one of the many community organizations that usually have a float in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.

Between 30,000 and 35,000 are expected to crowd into Oak Lawn on Sunday, Sept. 19, for the 27th annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, Dallas’ annual LGBT Pride parade that this year celebrates the theme, “One Heart, One World, One Pride.”

Michael Doughman, executive director of Dallas Tavern Guild which presents the parade each year, said this week the parade will include about 92 entries. It will travel the traditional route, with entries lining up along Wycliff Avenue and then moving down Cedar Springs Road to Turtle Creek Boulevard before turning left to wind up at Lee Park.
The Festival in Lee Park takes place at the conclusion of the parade.

Doughman said that members of Youth First Texas, once again the parade beneficiary, will lead the way, carrying the parade banner. They will be followed by a color guard consisting of former military servicemembers from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, and then a mounted color guard provided by the Texas Gay Rodeo Association.

Then comes the “VIP section,” which will include grand marshals Paul Lewis and Erin Moore, Houston Mayor Annise Parker as honorary grand marshal, and then local city and county officials, such as Police Chief David Brown, Fire Chief Eddie Burns Sr., members of the Dallas City Council and Sheriff Lupe Valdez.

“We understand that Mayor Parker’s son will be riding in the parade with her, and I think by now everybody knows that [Democratic gubernatorial candidate] Bill White will be walking with the Stonewall Democrats in the parade,” Doughman said.

“I think most of the entries will probably follow our theme this year, which is really all about unity,” he added. “This theme matches the goal of our parade and our community, which is unifying our community and our people.”

Doughman said there is “nothing really new” about the way the parade will happen this year.

“We just work to make it run as smoothly as possible and take out any hiccups or delays. We just want to keep it moving as smoothly and steadily as possible down the road so that the spectators are entertained,” he said.

There will, however, be something new for the Festival in Lee Park. Food services during the festival this year will be handled exclusively by Brinker, the parent company for restaurant chains On The Border, Chili’s and Maggiano’s.

“We really liked the idea of having these recognizable brands out there for the food. We think it is a real step up,” he said. “We think they will do very well, and on top of that, they have agreed to give us a portion of their proceeds to give back to our beneficiary.”

This means there will be a “much larger” food and beer pavilion in the upper part of the park, giving those attending the festival better and quicker service, Doughman said.
Voice of Pride top finishers Mel Arizpe, Laura Carrizales and Juliana Jeffrey will perform during the festival, as will Anton Shaw and her band.

Derek Hartley of “The Derek and Romaine Show” on Sirius XM OutQ Radio will emcee the festival.

Thanks to the economic recession and the ever-increasing costs and requirements of staging the event, finances have created some problems for the parade in recent years. This year, though, things are looking up, Doughman said.

“I think we are OK this year. We had some real struggles in 2008, and last year was still pretty tight because of the economy. But we found some extra sponsors this year, and we did well in raising money during the Voice of Pride competition this year,” Doughman said. “Our main goal each year is to be able to give our beneficiary the amount we have committed to and still be able to pay for the parade and maintain the administrative costs of the Tavern Guild through the rest of the year.”

Doughman said the Tavern Guild doesn’t really generate any revenue until the later stages of VOP and then when the entry fees for the parade start rolling in each year. “So we have to balance everything out to have enough money to cover expenses through the rest of the year,” he said.

“Actually, we are paying a lot of the bills that are due this week, and we will be able to pay the balance of the expenses — things like the cost of added security, renting barricades, cleanup and sanitation costs — right after the parade,” he said.

Doughman noted that the city has recently increased the requirements applicants must meet to get a parade permit, but still the Tavern Guild shouldn’t be looking at any red ink when it is all said and done.

“We won’t be rolling in it by any means. But we did see enough light on the horizon this year to go ahead and invest in new flags and flag holders to put up along Cedar Springs. The old flags were so beat up and faded that we didn’t even put them up last year,” he said.

“We never have an excess of money after the parade because the costs of putting it on are so significant, but we should be OK this year,” Doughman said.

One way the Tavern Guild has cut costs, he added, is by not paying to bring in celebrity guests and performers.

“I think people enjoy the day, whether there are celebrities here or not. We just want to give the people a good parade and a good festival and let them have a great time. That’s why they come out in the first place.”

The 27th Annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade begins at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens