by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
Temperatures hitting as high as 96 degrees on Sunday afternoon didn't keep an estimated 45,000 people from attending the Dallas Pride Parade, and neither did tightened security that saw law enforcement officers scattered throughout the city's Gay district, Oak Lawn.
The 33rd installment of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade kicked off at 2pm on September 18 at one end of Cedar Springs Road with spectators of all ages crammed along the spectator railing, sidewalks and outdoor bar patios. 'Solidarity Through Pride' was this year's theme, reflected not only in the colorful floats and costumed people appearing in the 2.5-hour long parade, but also amongst the crowd, which was a noticeable mix of Latinos, African-Americans, Gay men, Lesbians and a wide range of age groups.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings started the parade, marching with a small contingency of public officials behind a procession of fire trucks, police vehicles and sheriffs riding on horses.
Burke Burnett, selected as one of the grand marshals by a community-wide voting system, and his husband Justin Carrier sat atop a black Maserati convertible with matching shirts that read 'DAD2.' The couple met in the Oak Lawn neighborhood years ago and are now married with two young sons. Burnett co-founded a support network called SOS (Survivors Offering Support), after a series of violent attacks in Oak Lawn, that provides helpful resources to victims, from medical expenses to lost wages to counseling referrals and legal assistance. Todd Maria, the second Grand Marshal chosen this year, followed in a silver Maserati convertible with a companion. Originally from Hawaii, Maria is head coach of the Lost Souls Rugby Club and has increased its visibility within and outside the community, inviting players of all ages, backgrounds and sexual orientation to participate on the field and off, such as getting involved with canned food drives and other fundraisers to assist those less fortunate.
Sunday's parade was sponsored by T-Mobile and featured local organizations, bars and clubs, politicians, churches, resource centers, royalty courts and radio stations, in addition to major corporate chains, including AT&T, Kroger, Chipotle, Frito-Lay, JC Penney, Metro PCS, Wells Fargo, Hilton, Chase, Supercuts, Bank of America and two Dallas-based airlines, American and Southwest. Nearly all of the marching contingents, especially those riding along the parade route on designed floats, threw goodies out into the crowd, from party beads to sunglasses to Frisbees. Others tossed tee-shirts, packaged snacks, baseball caps and plastic flower leis to onlookers on both sides of the street. Even bottled water, a godsend on this scorching afternoon, was distributed by a few organizations during the parade, something much more useful than beads.
While the focus of the parade was about unity and celebration, there were political statements made by organizations reminding the public to register to vote in November's election and the Florida tragedy earlier this summer. Local Hispanic club Kaliente held a large banner with the words 'We Are Orlando' underneath its bar name. Caven Enterprises, which owns multiple Gay bars in Oak Lawn, also memorialized the tragedy with a beautiful float and the words 'Orlando. June 12, 2016 - We Will Never Forget'; and the words 'We Stand With You' were imprinted on the float's skirt, as drag queens all dressed in sequined navy blue gowns waved to bystanders. And, a small troupe of military veterans marched with a banner that read 'This Is Our Community - We Will Never Forget - Orlando Is In Our Hearts Forever.'
The Oak Lawn Band entertained the large crowd with new and old tunes while wearing matching white shorts and red tee-shirts; its conductor donned a rainbow colored ankle-length skirt. Members of the Black Gold Winterguard, sporting black shorts and tank tops with black and yellow tube socks marched in front of the band spinning faux rifles into the air. Grace United Methodist Church held up small signs reading 'Jesus Thinks You're Fabulous' and 'Faith Hope Love. 1 Corinthians 13:13.'
Dallas Summer Musicals, a non-profit organization that promotes live theater in North Texas, played Whitney Houston songs to boost the upcoming theatrical production of The Bodyguard, set for a July 2017 run at the Music Hall at Fair Park. North Texas Unitarian Universalist Church drove a school bus through the parade with a large banner reading 'Give 'em not hell, but hope and courage, and teach universal love,' as church members inside waved posters on sticks with the words 'Loving the Hate out of the World.'
The Miller Lite Festival in the Park, also presented by T-Mobile, was staged at nearby Reverchon Park, although it took nearly an hour to get there with crowd congestion and no signage to help out-of-towners, like myself, find it. Due to the recent Orlando massacre and Dallas police shootings, attendees were not allowed to bring purses, bags, or backpacks into the festival area, which discouraged many from entering. Those who complied with the strict rules, and who also forked over the $10 admission, were treated to live entertainment, freshly made food for purchase, and an array of community booths with vital information and resources from local LGBT businesses.
Other events during Dallas Pride included a 'Gay Day' at Six Flags Over Texas amusement park and a sold out Gay Bingo at S4 (Station 4), which featured local drag celebrities and close to $2,000 in cash given away.
To attend next year's event, go to dallaspride.org; and for travel information on Dallas, check out visitdallas.com.
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