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

After a two-year COVID-19 hiatus, San Antonio’s Pride Week festivities resume with the inclusion of a new river parade that is creating some tension in the LGBTQ community.

Pride Week kicks off Friday at 6 p.m. with Pride San Antonio’s official opening party at the San Antonio Zoo. The family-friendly event will feature entertainment, animal encounters, vendors, live music and more.

On Saturday, the Bud Light Pride River Parade and Celebration, hosted by Visit San Antonio, makes its debut with a celebration at La Villita at noon. The parade, which will feature at least 19 barges, begins at the River Walk at 4 p.m. A night version of the parade takes place at 7 p.m. It begins at the River Lock and Dam and ends at the Pearl. 

Meanwhile, Pride San Antonio’s 19th annual “Pride Bigger than Texas” parade and festival will take place on June 25 at Crockett Park on North Main Avenue. On June 26, the group’s festivities will end with Pride in the Park at Six Flags Fiesta Texas.

Planning for the Pride River Parade began in late February, said Maggie Thompson, director of River Walk Operations, who explained that Visit San Antonio created the event to make it an annual tradition. Pride San Antonio organizers have not been involved in river parade planning, she confirmed. 

James Poindexter, secretary of Pride San Antonio’s board of directors, said the group had limited discussions with Visit San Antonio about their involvement with the river parade. 

Visit San Antonio had asked Pride San Antonio to join the conversation about the new event, according to Poindexter. Pride San Antonio decided it wasn’t in their best interest to participate, he said, because they felt the event was not about the community. He also cited the different missions of each organization. 

“Ours is the First Amendment, celebrating the community, celebrating our organizations’ raising money for charity,” said Poindexter. “They’re … a  501(c)(6) [organization]. Basically Visit San Antonio was set up as a legal Chamber of Commerce, so it’s not a community organization, it is a commerce organization.”

Along with this year’s festivities, an added touch to the rainbow crosswalk at Main Avenue and Evergreen Street near San Antonio College will be added, said Poindexter. Rainbow banners will be permanently installed on utility poles lining Main Avenue.

Security at Pride San Antonio will be increased by at least 15%, said Poindexter. The enhanced security comes after a white supremacist group with riot gear was arrested near an Idaho pride event Saturday. Multiple layers of security are also being added, Poindexter said, including a search of attendees’ costumes and belongings at the entrance gate. Other details weren’t shared because of safety concerns. 

Visit San Antonio said in a statement they will ensure that a safe environment will be provided for attendees and, as with all River Walk parades, they will work closely with the San Antonio Police Department.

Thompson said Visit San Antonio is hosting the river parade to promote the city’s mission of inclusion and diversity. The ultimate goal, she said, is to have a robust Pride Week and Pride Month where people can come to San Antonio to enjoy events and activities.

“They are two totally different parades,” said Thompson. “A river parade is different. It’s kind of like during Fiesta. They have so many different parades and night parade, a day parade, a river parade and King William. So, [Pride San Antonio is] not competing, it just adds to the overall Pride Month.”

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Raquel Torres

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. She previously worked at the Tyler Morning Telegraph and is a 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University.