Attendees participate in the Pride Bigger than Texas parade on Main Avenue in 2019.
Attendees participate in the Pride Bigger than Texas parade on Main Avenue in 2019. Credit: Stephanie Marquez / San Antonio Report

D.J. Adams can’t wait to move to San Antonio.

The Atlanta resident wasn’t sure what to expect of Pride Bigger than Texas, San Antonio’s 16th annual Pride festival, but he came to the city on Saturday with an open mind. He was so impressed with the festival – the large crowds but also the organization – that he’s even more excited now to move to San Antonio in the next few months.

Outside perceptions of San Antonio colored his initial view of the city, but after seeing parents marching with their LGBTQIA+ children, San Antonio’s business community heavily represented in the evening parade, and the rainbow colors flashing down North Main Avenue, he saw the city in a much more inclusive light.

“I honestly did not realize San Antonio had this much love,” Adams said.

The festivities began at 11 a.m. Saturday in Crockett Park and continued well into the late evening hours with the parade, which drew thousands of observers, many of them clad in rainbow and waving the Pride flag. Dignitaries such as Mayor Ron Nirenberg, former Mayor and presidential candidate Julián Castro, and Bexar County Democratic Party Chair Monica Alcantara attended. Event sponsors USAA, Wells Fargo, and Marriott entered floats in the parade.

Autumn Summers, Pride San Antonio co-founder and entertainment director of the festival, and the late Gene Elder, an archivist for the gay community, were selected as co-marshals of the parade.

For Jen Green, 17, Pride represents a safe haven for those in the LGBTQIA+ who face persecution and allies who are discouraged from publicly supporting gay rights.

“It’s very nice that we have an actual supportive place now,” said Green, who came from Houston to attend Pride. “I have friends that didn’t tell their parents they’re coming to Pride because they don’t want to get kicked out. It’s nice being in a safe environment where you know everyone’s actually going to be OK with you. It’s very reassuring.”

The 2019 edition of the festival comes on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, widely considered to be the seminal moment of the gay rights movement.

LGBTQIA+ rights have come a long way since then, but many festivalgoers caveated their delight in the progress society has made with the need for continued vigilance and activism.

San Antonio native Veronica Jimenez, who recently moved back from New York, said San Antonio has become more LGBTQIA+-friendly since the last time she lived in the city.

“I’ve noticed San Antonio is becoming more accepting and trying to be more involved and more engaged,” she said. “So it’s definitely good to see San Antonio try to be bigger as far as pride.

“There’s so much more to fight for but so much to celebrate tonight.”

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.