Top 10: Celebrations saw major changes

RazzleDazzle

PARADES AND PARTIES | Razzle Dazzle Dallas returned as a five-day event with crowds filling the street for the big Saturday night extravaganza. (Chuck Dube/Dallas Voice)

No. 7

Change was the name of the game when it came to the traditional LGBT celebrations this year, from Easter in the Park in April to the 30th anniversary Tarrant County Gay Pride Week celebrations in October.

In mid-March news broke that the Turtle Creek Association, which had for years been the sponsoring organization for the annual Easter in Lee Park celebration, had decided to move the Pooch Parade to the weekend before Easter, billing it as a “family-friendly” event called Creek Craze. That left the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s traditional Easter Sunday concert in the park without a sponsor, and many in the LGBT community angry over what they saw as a way to exclude the community.

But after the irate reaction from the LGBT community, the Turtle Creek Association teamed up with Lee Park Conservancy to hire gay event planner Dave Berryman, who quickly put together a plan to fund the usual Easter Sunday celebration by bringing in Cedar Springs Merchants Association member Kroger, along with Park Place Volvo and Metro PCS as title sponsors, allowing TCA to continue with its Creek Craze event and for the traditional Easter in Lee Park party to take place as well, complete with the Kroger Pooch Parade and the DSO concert.

In the fall of 2010 plans began percolating to bring back what had long been Dallas’ annual Gay Pride Month celebration, Razzle Dazzle Dallas. And while some questioned whether organizers would be able to coordinate their planned five-day revival of the event in time, Razzle Dazzle Dallas came back with a bang.

Many in the community reacted in anger again last summer when the Dallas Tavern Guild announced new rules for the annual Festival in Lee Park, following the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade in September. Under the new rules, the park was fenced in and a $5 admission fee was charged at the gate. The Tavern Guild also banned partiers from bringing their own coolers and beverages into the park for the festival.

DTG Executive Director Michael Doughman explained that the Tavern Guild was fencing the park for the festival to get ahead of new city regulations set to go into effect in 2012, and that the admission fee was intended to add to the proceeds to be distributed to parade beneficiaries. Outside liquor was banned, he said, because incidences with highly-inebriated partiers in the park had gotten out of control in recent years.

Despite complaints and some glitches, Doughman said after the event that organizers were pleased with the turnout — some 5,300 people paid the $5 admission — and in December, the Tavern Guild distributed checks totaling $18,700 to five beneficiary organizations.

Tarrant County’s annual Pride Week celebration also saw big changes in 2012. Organizers consolidated the annual picnic and parade, which previously had taken place on separate weekends, into one weekend, added several events and moved the parade downtown. Despite dire predictions from some quarters that the changes would lead to failure, the community turned out in big numbers to line Main Street in downtown Fort Worth to cheer a parade that included, for the first time ever, a Fort Worth mayor — newly-elected Betsy Price — as a participant. And the following day, the crowds returned to Trinity Park for the annual picnic.

—Tammye Nash

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Plans finalized for Easter in Lee Park

IN YOUR EASTER BONNET | Outrageous bonnets are as much a part of Easter in Lee Park as the annual Pooch Parade. And bonnets and pooches both will likely be in abundance this Sunday for the annual celebration.

Funding comes through for annual event featuring Pooch Parade, DSO performance

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

The Kroger Pooch Parade on Turtle Creek Boulevard and a performance by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in Lee Park will mark a routine Easter in the Park.

Until last week, however, no one was guaranteeing that things would be routine.

After the Turtle Creek Association, the original organizer of Easter in the Park, moved some events to an earlier Sunday, the DSO was left to perform without an event organizer. The Cedar Springs Merchants Association stepped in.

In addition, TCA’s billing of the Creek Craze as a “family-friendly” event angered many in the LGBT community who saw that as a catchphrase for “gays not welcome.”

Together with the Lee Park Conservancy, they hired event planner Dave Berryman.

Berryman quickly put together a funding package. Kroger, Park Place Volvo and MetroPCS became the title sponsors. Mayor Dwaine Caraway’s office became involved to ensure the event took place.

Lee Park Conservancy President John Williams said that on Tuesday, April 19, he met with Berryman and DSO Director of Community Engagement Cynthia Hinojosa and that everything is in place for this weekend.

“Without Dave Berryman’s experience, it would not have come together,” Williams said.

CSMA President Scott Whittall said he was excited that Kroger has become the event’s title sponsor. He said the store has been a member of the association for years and has actively participated in the retailers’ organization for years. But this was the first time he remembered them making such a substantial commitment to become the title sponsor of a Cedar Springs event.

Petropolitan made the arrangements for the Pooch Parade. Paul Williams will emcee and judges include City Council members Pauline Medrano and Angela Hunt.

The entry fee is $10 per pet. Registration begins at 11 a.m. and the judging at noon.

Vendors will begin serving in the park at noon.

The DSO had budgeted $60,000 for their annual Lee Park performance. The cost involves transporting and setting up the stage as well as paying the 100-member orchestra. But they relied on Easter in the Park organizers for event permits, to bring in food and beverage vendors and to help ensure a large audience.

Whittall said that in addition to the scheduled events, there will be an Easter bonnet preview in the park.

Once afternoon activities in the park end, five clubs on Cedar Springs Road will host Easter bonnet contests. The competitions are hourly beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Round-Up Saloon and ending at 10:30 p.m. at Woody’s Sports and Video Bar.

Whittall said that CSMA intends to continue to be the organizational sponsor of Easter in the Park.

Other than a number of families that participated in the Easter Egg roll early in the afternoon, the event that Turtle Creek Association moved to Palm Sunday — dubbed Creek Craze — went largely unattended. But they plan to hold it again next year. With more planning and publicity, they expect more families with children to attend.

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Easter in the Park events

11 a.m.: Pooch Parade registration opens  ($10 per pet)
noon: Food & beverage vendors open
1 p.m.: Pooch Parade begins
3 p.m.: Dallas Symphony performs
5 p.m.: Food & beverage vendors close

Easter Bonnet contests begin at Cedar Springs clubs:

6:30 p.m.: Round-Up Saloon
7:30 p.m.: TMC: The Mining Company
8:30 p.m.: JR’s Bar and Grill
9:30 p.m.: Sue Ellen’s
10:30 p.m.: Woody’s Sports and Video Bar

—  John Wright

Easter in the Park back on; so is Creek Craze

EASTER PARADE | The pooch parade, a picnic and a concert by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in Lee Park are an Oak Lawn tradition.

After Easter in the Park was dismantled, the Lee Park Conservancy and Cedar Springs Merchants put it back together

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

The annual Easter in the Park picnic, Pooch Parade and concert that draws hundreds to Lee Park each Easter Sunday nearly unraveled before being put back together this week.

Groups that were competing just a few days ago are now working together to stage two Sundays of events in Lee Park.

While final funding is not yet in place, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra concert in Lee Park that begins a series of free outdoor concerts will remain on Easter Sunday. What had been billed as “family-friendly” events the week before — including an Easter egg roll for children, concessions and vendors — will take place on Palm Sunday.

While the two weekends were still in competition last week, John Williams, president and CEO of the Lee Park and Arlington Hall Conservancy, put the best face on it and said he preferred to think of the weekends as “bookended Easter week events.”

That’s not how some members of the LGBT community in Oak Lawn saw it. “Family-friendly” was taken as an anti-gay buzzword, and detractors described TCA as homophobic, calling the Easter in the Park event including the Pooch Parade “hijacked.”

The Conservancy operates Lee Park while the Turtle Creek Association, a neighborhood group that has landscaped medians along Turtle Creek Boulevard and Lemmon Avenue near Lee Park to supplement city services, runs events — including the popular Easter in the Park.

Most of the concern in the LGBT community centered around moving the Pooch Parade — an event started by the LGBT community — to an event that most in the LGBT community had no interest in attending or that they perceived they were not welcome to attend.

TCA renamed it the Pet Costume Contest that would be hosted by 98.7 KLUV’s Jody Dean.

Williams said the Conservancy understands how seriously members of the community treat their canine family members, which is why his group created a special membership category for dogs.

Keith Nix, a gay board member of TCA, said that “family-friendly” meant all families and the LGBT community was certainly welcome. They wanted to create an Easter event for children but no slight, he said, was ever intended.

After calls from Dallas Voice, Williams met with the representatives of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association and with David Berryman, who has worked with Dallas Tavern Guild for years and was grand marshal of the 2010 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade. Berryman operates a company called Bravo Event Group.

Williams was concerned because the DSO had not been contacted about the date change and the orchestra was still scheduled to perform on Easter Sunday. The orchestra had $60,000 committed to setting up and performing in Lee Park that day, with or without an audience.

To put Easter Sunday back together, Williams convinced TCA to call the events in the park on Palm Sunday something other than Easter in the Park. They’re billing it now as Creek Craze.

On Monday, Williams, Berryman and TCA President Cathy Golden met with Mayor Dwaine Caraway’s chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh.

In previous years, the Park and Recreation Department picked up the cost of the Pooch Parade. This year, that department is short of funding, affecting both weekends’ dog events.

The city agreed to pick up some of the costs including permits for Easter in the Park.

However, Berryman, who became the event coordinator this week, said that they are scrambling to find underwriting.

In the last year, his company staged the successful Cedar Springs Super Street Party, the annual Christmas Stocking Auction at the Round-Up Saloon and the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and Festival in Lee Park.

But Berryman had much longer lead times to line up sponsors.

He said that he has budgeted $14,000 to cover required expenses including police and medical, printing, street closure, insurance, port-o-potties, clean up and trash removal. Off-duty police officers, he said, must be hired based on the number of people expected at the park. By city ordinance, two Dallas Fire and Rescue EMTs and an ambulance must be on hand.

Recent changes to city ordinances do not allow volunteer squads.

Scott Whittall, president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, said, “We’re trying to get it underwritten,” and he said he was confidant the money would be found.

Berryman said that permits must be in place so that people can drink in the park. Open containers are not allowed in city parks without special event permits. If funding did not materialize and Easter in the Park falls through, picnickers watching the DSO could be issued citations if caught with alcohol.

But Williams said that other than underwriting, the event is already organized.

“We’re just waiting for funding,” Williams said on Thursday morning.

He said he was working directly with Heinbaugh and they have been in touch daily this week. The mayor’s office is helping them line up title sponsors for both events.

“We have everything in place, so as soon as the money’s there, we’re ready to go,” Williams said.

By the middle of the week, TCA, CSMA, Dallas Tavern Guild and the Conservancy were planning to cross-promote each other’s weekends.

In the long run, John Williams said, he thought this brought a number of disparate groups together that would work with each other in the future.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright