Finding the LGBT folks behind the scenes that help make the Texas State Fair happen

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

We know we’re everywhere. But finding this year’s gays of the Midway was easier than ever.

Athene-O'hara

Athena O’Hara

A simple email to the public relations department of the State Fair of Texas to find some interesting stories about LGBT people involved in the fair got a quick response: “What about me?” Kellye Tallent asked in response.

Tallent is a media relations coordinator handling requests for CW33 and local radio stations. She handles interviews, suggests ideas and angles and coordinates whatever coverage media outlets want to do at the fair.

OK, so — not everything we hair-brained reporters suggest. Channel 33 wanted to milk a cow in their studio.

A cow weighs about 1,000 pounds over the weight limit of an elevator, not to mention the animal wouldn’t actually fit into a regular office building elevator very well anyway.

Tallent said she did manage to find a miniature cow, but that cow hadn’t given birth recently and wasn’t lactating.

So she provided the station with a goat to milk instead.

Most media outlets let Tallent know when they are headed to the State Fair and have special requests. But even “if media make a surprise appearance, we make it happen,” she said.

She got a KRLD reporter on the Mattress Firm stage on the Esplanade with a Zuzu African acrobat.

During the Wild West Pet Palooza in the Band Shell, she arranged for a dog that jumps rope to jump over the head of a reporter.

For another, she arranged for the reporter to help clean out a pigpen. (We assured her she wouldn’t need to arrange anything like that for Dallas Voice.)

This is Tallent’s first year at the State Fair of Texas. She and her partner moved here from Oklahoma where, she said, the fairgrounds are about the same size as those in Dallas, but the fair itself is much smaller. Another interesting stat she mentioned is that at 131 years old, the State Fair of Texas is older than the state of Oklahoma.

Tallent said she was a little apprehensive about moving here, but has been delighted with the welcome she and her partner have gotten from the fair and around the city. She also said the unofficial Gay Day at the fair is Wednesday, Oct. 11, which is National Coming Out Day.

PARADE: Deluna and O’hara
Vincent Deluna, 21, has worked at the fair since he was 15. Actually, he’s been around the fair his whole life, since his family has had a food and beverage stand there since 1936.

But Deluna’s job for the last few years has been pacing the nightly State Fair parade.

Each night the fair stages a parade at 7:15 p.m. Deluna said he paces the parade by taking into account how busy the grounds are and where the “crowd bubbles” are.

“We have the U.S. Marine Band for the first half of the fair,” he said. They’re professionals, but sometimes the high school bands need to be slowed.

Kellye-Tallent

Kellye Tallent

Then he spaces the floats, which are built and driven up from San Antonio, and then other acts that participate.

If the parade goes by too fast, the crowd won’t feel like it’s had a parade experience, Deluna explained, adding that he shoots for a 25-minute parade.

That’s far shorter than the other parade Deluna helps stage — the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, where he serves on the steering committee and this year, for the second time, was in charge of logistics.

Deluna lives in San Marcos where he works as a 911 dispatcher during the year. He moved there from Dallas to live with his fiance who goes to Texas State University.

But parades are Deluna’s passion, and he said he may be involved in staging this year’s Veteran’s Day parade as well.

Athena O’hara, a popular drag entertainer here in Dallas, will be appearing in the state fair parade this year. As a scarecrow. On stilts.

O’hara’s been stiltwalking for only a few years, saying that she learned to walk on stilts when a friend dragged him along. A woman who was a costume designer and entertainment coordinator for an entertainment company had her friend try walking on stilts and he wasn’t doing very well.

“You look like a hot mess,” O’hara told her friend. So the teacher asked if she’d like to give it a try. O’hara signed a waiver, climbed up and took off like she’d always been walking on stilts.

O’hara credits stiltwalking with getting her into drag. Her first year on stilts in the parade, she was a tribal goddess in green and blue makeup — and that hooked her.

O’hara described walking in the nightly parade as a special challenge. She said she has to be careful of speed bumps along the route, as well as cracks in the pavement, while remembering to smile and wave at the same time.

“It’s a rush, but also you have to be careful,” she said.

Vincent-Deluna-

Vincent Deluna

Being on stilts has its advantages, though. O’hara said she can see over the fences when she’s on the stilts, and that has given her the chance to see some celebrities — like Kelly Rowlands and Chris Brown — while they were hanging out and relaxing before their shows.

After the parade, O’hara said she enjoys getting off the stilts and walking around the fair while still in her parade makeup.

“People look at you like you’re crazy,” she said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 6, 2017.