A bigger parade in a new location, expanded schedule of events will help Tarrant County keep Pride going all year round
Tammye Nash | Senior Editor
FORT WORTH — LGBT Pride celebrations aren’t new in Tarrant County. But there are definitely a few new things about this year’s 30th annual Pride celebration in Cowtown.
The biggest change is the location — and the day and time — of the annual Pride parade. Traditionally, the parade has been held on Sunday afternoons — the first weekend in October for the last couple of years, before that, at the beginning of June — and it has traditionally traveled down South Jennings Street.
This year, though, the Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade moves uptown, starting near the courthouse on Main Street then heading south to disperse at the convention center, just in time for the street festival on Main Street and in General Worth Square.
The annual Pride Picnic, Tarrant County’s original Pride event which has traditionally been held on the Saturday following the parade, this year will instead be held on Sunday, Oct. 2, the day after the parade, again at the Arts Pavilion in Trinity Park.
But it’s not just the days and location that are new for Tarrant County Pride this year, organizers say; there’s also a renewed enthusiasm — a renewed and strengthened spirit of pride.
“There’s a real excitement this year. People are excited about moving the parade and the festival downtown,” said Daune Littlefield, president of the Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association.
“Yes, there are a few who didn’t want to move the parade, who didn’t want to do anything differently. But there are more who are excited,” she added. “We should have grown more than we have in the last 30 years. We just got too comfortable with doing things the way we had always done them.”
It’s not been an easy task. The new location for the parade offered some logistical problems. And of course, the expanded event requires the Pride association to cooperate more with city officials.
But at the same time, organizers’ big plans made that cooperation easier to come by.
“We’ve been planning this for awhile. In fact, it was about two years ago that we really started to think about moving the parade, making things bigger and better,” said Littlefield.
“One of the main reasons we changed the day and the time of the parade was because it would be easier to get the permits and close the streets downtown and manage the traffic if the parade was on a Saturday morning,” she explained. “And having the parade and picnic all in the same weekend makes it easier to draw in more people from out of town. And the idea of more people coming in from out of town made it easier to get the [Fort Worth] Convention and Visitors Bureau to work with us.”
And the idea of bringing in visitors from out of town also convinced the Sheraton Fort Worth hotel to partner with the committee to offer the Pride Weekend Package, offering visitors a discounted price to stay at the hotel and giving them easy access to the parade, the street festival and the number of educational seminars and entertainment events scheduled to be held at the hotel during the course of the weekend.
Littlefield and Tina Harvey, parade and vendor chair and long-term parade committee member, both acknowledged that the weekend package deal was not as successful this year as they had hoped. But both also believe it will be much more popular next year.
“We may have overdone it a little this year. Our expectations for that part may have been too high,” Harvey said. “But Pride weekend this year is going to be a huge success. People will see how successful it is, how much fun it is, and they are going to want to participate even more next year.”
Already, Harvey said, there are 48 entries registered for the parade on Saturday, which is 10 more than participated in last year’s parade. And 22 vendors, not counting the food and beverage vendors, have signed up for the street festival. That number also doesn’t count the activities available in the kid’s area.
Dianne Dunivan, picnic and merchandise chair and another longtime committee member, said Sunday’s picnic is also flush with vendors, entertainment and a kid’s area.
And both Dunivan and Harvey are quick to point out that they have worked diligently to keep prices as low as possible when it comes to food and drink stands at the street festival and picnic.
“Last year was the first time we charged for the food and the beer. We charged $1 for the beer, but the product cost us $1.08 and we had to pay taxes to the state on top of that. So we actually lost money on that last year. But that was OK, because we wanted to ease into actually charging for it,” Dunivan said.
“This year, the prices are a little higher. It will be $3 for a burger, a beer or wine, $2 for a polish sausage, and $1 for hot dogs or soft drinks. We are doing everything we can to keep the costs under control,” Dunivan said, adding that when it comes to the picnic in the park on Sunday, “We don’t have an exclusive. People can bring in their own stuff if they want. We are offering the food and the drinks as a convenience.
“We just want to make sure people know that everything is being upgraded this year. Everything is better. And, while we were cash-only last year, this year we’ll be able to take credit cards.”
Dunivan and Harvey also both stress that there is no admission fee to the parade, the festival or the picnic. Still, the committee wants to come out ahead in the money department, so they will have cash on hand as they start planning for 2012, and so they can add to the new TCGPW scholarship fund.
“That’s a big thing for us,” Littlefield said. “This year, we said we really wanted to step forward, to be even more family-friendly, and be even more visible, not just in the LGBT community, but in the community overall. Offering a scholarship is part of that.”
The scholarship, she explained, will be awarded to an LGBT person or to the child of an LGBT family. And while she believes that the association will definitely have enough money to cover expenses for this year’s parade and picnic, if there’s not enough left over to add to the scholarship fund, “we’ll just raise more money!”
And they aren’t waiting around to do that either.
Pride throughout the year
Littlefield and the Pride committee this year are stressing that in Tarrant County they are no longer going to talk about Pride weekend. From now on, Littlefield said, “We are going to talk about Pride events. It won’t be just one weekend; we’re going to have Pride throughout the year.
“We want to keep up our visibility throughout the year. We want to keep the momentum going,” she said.
To do that TCGPWA is partnering with a variety of organizations and companies to help present and promote events that take the LGBT community out into the community at large, and that help put money in the Pride coffers.
The first such event on the schedule is Tarrant County Pride Day at Cowboys Stadium on Oct. 12. It includes a two-hour tour of the stadium, including the press box, the luxury suites, the Cotton Bowl offices, the Dr. Pepper Deck, the stadium clubs and the field. Plus, each person gets a free photo of themselves at the stadium, and all for just $20 a person.
A portion of each ticket sold, Littlefield said, will benefit TCGPWA.
The association has a similar arrangement worked out with Bass Hall for Joan Rivers’ performance there on Nov. 2, she added, and more such events will be added in the future.
Legacy of the raid
This level of enthusiasm and involvement is, Littlefield acknowledged, something of a new thing in Tarrant County. And it can be traced, at least in part, back to the June 29, 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge by Fort Worth police and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
While the raid was a horrible thing, Littlefield said, plenty of good things have happened in its aftermath, including the community’s renewed sense of pride and activism.
“What happened that night at the Rainbow Lounge has made us all more aware that even though things are better than they were years ago, bad things can still happen,” she said. “But if you come together and work together, you can make good things come of it in the end.”
“After the Rainbow Lounge raid, our community started speaking out, and the city and the mayor and the police chief really stepped up to work with us,” Harvey said. “Last year, a year after the raid, [Police Chief Jeff Halstead] was the grand marshal of our parade, and he was there for the picnic, along with about 20 Fort Worth police officers. Only about five of those officers were paid to be there, the others were just there to enjoy the day and share it with us.
“When I was younger, that never would have happened,” she continued. “Back then, the cops still raided the bars all the time. The gay people were always getting beat up. But seeing the chief and those officers at the parade and the picnic last year, it was life-changing for me. For the first time in my life, I felt like I didn’t have to worry about being who I am. And this year, the mayor [Betsy Price] is our grand marshal. That’s fantastic.
“When I was young, what I learned was to keep your head down, keep your mouth shut and stay with your own group. That’s not how it is any more. Some people are willing to keep on being second-class citizens, but not me. I want us to walk down Main Street, together. I want people to see us, to see our families. I want the young people coming up today to see that, and say to themselves, ‘I’m gonna be OK.’ That’s what Pride is about.”
Tarrant County Pride Schedule
FRIDAY, SEPT. 30
• Noon-10 p.m. Trading Post & Arts Exhibit, Second Floor, Piney Woods Room, Sheraton FW
• 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. “Community School House” Education Sessions, Second Floor, West Room, Sheraton FW
*10:30-11:30 a.m. Samaritan House: Where there is a home, there is hope
* 1:30-2:30 p.m. Healing Wings: 30 years of HIV: Impact on the GLBT Community
* 3-4 p.m. Sessions Break
* 4:30-5:30 p.m. Outreach Addiction Services: Sex: Safety the Gay Way
* 6-7 p.m. Fairness Fort Worth: Grassroots Organizing: The creation of Fairness Fort Worth, Inc.
* 1-3 p.m. QCinema screens “March On!,” documentary screening, Second Floor, Taste of Texas Ballroom, Sheraton FW
* 7:33 p.m. “Strut your Pride” Show, hosted by Imperial Court de Fort Worth/Arlington, Best Friends Club, www.ic-fwa.org
* 8-10 p.m. Open Door Productions presents comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer, Second Floor, Taste of Texas Ballroom, Sheraton FW, limited general seating $25, for tickets visit: OpenDoorProductionstx.com
* Boot Scootin’, Club Reflection
* $300 Balloon Drop, dancers, live DJ, Rainbow Lounge
* Kick it Up Country Night, Best Friends
* 9 p.m. So You Think You Can Sing? Karaoke, Percussions
SATURDAY, OCT. 1
• 10 a.m.-noon “Ride the Rainbow” Pride Parade, Main Street at Weatherford, downtown Fort Worth
• 11 a.m.-2 p.m. AIDS Outreach Center Car Wash benefiting the 20th Anniversary AIDS Walk, Staybridge Suites, 220 Clifford Center Drive, Fort Worth. Contact Jaime Shultety at email@example.com or 817-916-5210.
• Noon-6 p.m. Pride Street Festival, General Worth Square, Main and Ninth Streets
Coors Main Stage:
* 12 p.m. Eddy Herrera www.soundcloud.com/eustoliog
* 2 p.m. Eddy Herrera www.soundcloud.com/eustoliog
* 3 p.m. Aurora Bleu, www.AuroraBleu.com
* 4 p.m. Parade Awards
* 5 p.m. Aurora Bleu, www.AuroraBleu.com
• 5-7 p.m. It Only Makes Me Laugh Comedy Showcase, Patio @ Rainbow Lounge
• 6-9 p.m. Cowtown “Pride” Cookout, hosted by Cowtown Leathermen, Club Reflection Patio, www.cowtownleathermen.com
• 7-11 p.m. Threesome, live band, on Patio @ Rainbow Lounge
• 8-10 p.m. Burlesque Show starring Tasha Kohl, Mosaic Lounge (underground), 515 Houston St. entrance on 5th St.
• 8-10 p.m. Fall Fest Events, hosted by NTXCC, Club Reflection Patio, www.ntxcc.org
• 9 p.m. Anton Shaw live, Percussions
• Boot Scootin’, Club Reflection
• 1 a.m. Pride Night $500 balloon drop Best Friends
SUNDAY, OCT. 2
• Noon-6 p.m. Pride Picnic, Trinity Park Arts Pavilion
Bud Light Mainstage Schedule
* 1 p.m. Terry Sweeney
* 2 p.m. Valerie Stevens and Kickback
* 3 p.m. Mallorie
* 4 p.m. To be announced
* 5 p.m. Butch Country
• 2-7 p.m. Afternoon Cookout, Patio @ Rainbow Lounge
• 6-9 p.m. Family Night, Best Friends
• 8 p.m. Pride Karaoke, Club Reflection
• 9 p.m. Karaoke with Pete Day, Percussions
• 11 p.m. Whitney Paige Show, Rainbow Lounge
(For more events throughout the week, go online to TCGPWA.org.)
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.