Pride 2011 • YFT Color Guard will wave the flags proudly

Six-member team will perform routine to ‘Take It Off’ as they march in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade

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WAVING THE FLAG | Danny Rojas, one of the YFT color guard members with no experience, learns to wave the flag. (Draconis von Trapp/Dallas Voice)

Draconis von Trapp  |  Intern
intern@dallasvoice.com

This year, instead of just marching in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and throwing beads and condoms, members of Youth First Texas have decided to throw flags.

In other words, the YFT Color Guard will be hitting the pavement of Cedar Springs Road, with six teens marching and twirling flags to the tune of “Take It Off” by Ke$ha.

For some of the six, the parade will be their debut performance as flag throwers: Half of the team has some significant amount of drill team experience, while the other three are brand new.

Team Captain Michael Eaves has been in color guard for two years at his high school in Sachse. He leads the team with his experience and one-on-one instruction.

“It seemed like something fun,” Eaves said. “Most people do floats, so we do something different.”

He said that there was one color guard team last year, so, “Why not have two?”

From Plano Senior High, 17-year-old Celina Blanco is one of the co-captains of her color guard squad, and she takes partial command of the YFT group. Blanco has been guarding for three years and has been captain for two of those years, giving her the experience she needs to successfully help guide the newbies through a basic color guard routine.

“It’s kind of my goal in life to aid the youth and have a better upbringing, you know, more open,” Blanco says. “Being able to participate in the gay Pride parade and being able to tell my straight friends that, you know, I’m gonna be in this and I support this completely.”

Blanco was raised without any pressure over her sexuality or gender binary status, and she wants to be able to share that experience with other youth at YFT. Blanco also participates in Youth Board, a youth-run leadership program where the young people work with the YFT Executive Board to develop fundraising ideas and outreach activities, including deciding who and what goes into the parade for YFT’s group.

Also from Plano Senior High and a part of Youth Board, 16-year-old Maz-E Magnus is holding her own flag in the routine for Pride. Unlike Blanco, though, Magnus doesn’t have any previous color guard experience.

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REHEARSAL | Michael Eaves, left, leads rehearsal for the premiere performance of YFT’s color guard in the Pride Parade. (Draconis von Trapp/Dallas Voice)

 

“I had gone to football games and I’ve seen them out on the football field … and I was like, ‘Eh, okay, I guess it’s cool,’” Magnus said nonchalantly. “But then Celina was like, ‘Oh, we’re doing color guard at YFT!’”

At first, Magnus just volunteered to be the music master, stopping and starting the music as needed by the team. But after watching the others spin around and toss the flags around, though, Magnus’ interest was piqued.

“I was like, ‘Oh, I can do this! Hey, can I join?’ And they agreed. It’s still fun, but it’s a lot of hard work; it’s not as easy as I thought it would be,” she confided, rubbing her shoulders and explaining the physical intensity that is required for color guard.

Another experienced color guard co-captain, 17-year-old Joeii Johnson, leapt at the chance to participate in the routine with YFT. From Lake

Highlands High School, Johnson did both color guard and winter guard, which includes higher-intensity routines and rifles and sabers as opposed to flags.

“I feel empowered,” Johnson says about his love of color guard, “when I can throw something in the air, spin around and then catch it in the right spot. I like the fact that I’m the envelope pusher; I’m the one that does things no one expects me to do.”

Johnson joined color guard when all his older brothers did contact sports.

“When [my family] sees what I do, when I toss something and I catch it … they were amazed, and I felt good,” Johnson says.

“It’s about having fun and being proud that we even went out there to do this,” Johnson said.

He acknowledged that the routine the YFT Color Guard performs in the parade on Sunday might not be perfect that day. But, he declared, they’re still going to have a good time showing their colors.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Day of the living DIABLOS

Dallas gay rugby team wants you to go to Hell(fest)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

GHOUL!  | Diablos Nick Hughes, Stephen Mitchell, Dustin  Abercrombie, Ryan Cavender, Will Padilla and A.J. Tello expect HellFest to be a scary fun time. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)
GHOUL! | Diablos Nick Hughes, Stephen Mitchell, Dustin Abercrombie, Ryan Cavender, Will Padilla and A.J. Tello expect HellFest to be a scary fun time. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Every tournament has its hook, but for the Dallas Diablos Rugby Football Team, that hook comes at the end of a bloody stump.
Or maybe a fairy princess or Sarah Palin impersonator. Point is, it’s Halloween.

The Diablos didn’t really expect HellFest, their one-day rugby tourney to be held Oct. 30, to be such a hit, even though they knew they had a good idea.

“Originally, what we wanted was to have two or three teams come down, play some games, hang out for the [Cedar Springs] block party,” says Will Padilla, team captain and one of the organizers of HellFest. “We said, ‘Let’s try it out and see if we can get people interested in coming.’”

The interest was there and it grew exponentially. The previous year, an attempt to attract gay rugby teams from around the country resulted in only one attendee: the Minneapolis Mayhem. But word of mouth spread, “and more people asked to come, then more and more,” says Padilla. “I eventually had to cap it because it’s only a one-day tournament and we wanted everyone to get to play.”

Right now, 160 players representing eight teams from as many cities as far away as Atlanta are set to descend on Dallas for what looks to be one of the bigger gay rugby matches going.

“Austin, Houston and Dallas used to compete for a trophy called the Texas Pride Cup,” says Diablos co-founder and president A.J. Tello. But the Houston and Austin teams folded in recent years. “We haven’t had anything like that for a while, other than in Seattle, which has several teams in the area, and Bingham Cup every other year. We’re trying to get that back with an invitational with a national reach.”

“What I’ve found is that the majority of people on these teams have never been to Dallas,” adds Padilla. “Lots of them want to see what nightlife is like in Dallas.”

It’s an astonishing sense of camaraderie for a sport known for its aggressive play. But Padilla says rugby is one of the few sports where teams have no problem socializing with each other after the match is over.

“You play hard to party hard. Everybody who comes out is hyper-competitive and wants to win, but afterwards, we’re here to promote the game. You leave the anger on the pitch. After, you talk war stories and live it up with the guys. A lot of sports you don’t get a lot of commingling of teams; that’s not the case with rugby — not all.”

The openness is also true of the membership. “All of the teams are part of the IGRAB, the gay rugby union, and each is classified as openly diverse, but none of them are strictly gay,” Padilla says.

“We’re all inclusive. It’s not about who’s gay or straight — unless you want to date,” says Tello, who notes the Diablos have several straight players.

Still, that doesn’t mean there’s no difference between a gay rugby team and a straight one.

“We play other [non-gay] rugby clubs. After games, we go to the straight bars and the straight guys come to the Eagle,” Tello says. “We bring a little kick to it: We ask one of the members from the other team to get on the St Andrews cross, we get some paddles out and a whip and ask one of their girlfriends or wives to whip them. They have a ball and laugh.”

The tournament is intended to allow the players to enjoy a competitive round-robin of rugby, but there’s more motivation behind it. The Diablos  — both the men’s and women’s teams — want to spread their passion for the game throughout the community. (Although the women’s team is not playing, they have been instrumental in planning the tourney and will be active running it on game day.)

“I’ll judge its success by how well the teams receive the tournament, but we also wanna pull people in the community here, to come out to watch a tournament,” says Padilla. “There’s been nothing like this for rugby in Dallas.”

Those who don’t play are still welcome to come watch or even buy a “participant package” including tote bag and T-shirt, and come by the mixers or meet up with them during the block party.

Whether HellFest continues next year may also depend on the satisfaction of their sponsors, though Padilla says many were enthusiastic about helping out.

“It hasn’t been very hard — we’re promoting deeply within the community,” he says. “The host hotel is Hawthorne Suites and they gave us a good rate and helped us acquire shuttles to go to the venues. The Dallas Eagle is hosting our happy hour after the tournament and MGD64 is donating beer.”

That sounds like a sporting event all ghouls and boils can enjoy.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas