This year’s Pride “Bigger Than Texas” Festival and Parade on Saturday will be the 12th such celebration in San Antonio and certainly one for the history books. Not only does it come just a week after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states, but this year’s event will be held on the Fourth of July, Independence Day, when Americans across the county celebrate freedom. And so, new to the festivities this year, there will be a mass wedding ceremony during the daytime festival in Crockett Park to precede the evening’s parade.
Granted, the freedom to marry whom you love is a different kind than the freedom obtained in 1776 from Great Britain, but at the end of the day; freedom is freedom.
Pride San Antonio coordinates with other Texas cities’ pride parades to avoid having them on the same day or weekend, so it was kind of a random coincidence that this year’s celebration fell on July 4, said James Poindexter, Pride San Antonio board secretary and parade director. “We were anticipating a positive response out of the Supreme Court … it’s been such a controversial subject, we knew there was no way they (would deny gay marriage).”
While some counties and states, including Texas, still struggle to shake off the status quo, some religious conservatives argue that we should scrap the whole government institution of marriage, millions of Americans – the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, pansexual and straight ally community – are celebrating the watershed moment in U.S. marriage equality history.
11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Pride Festival
Pride San Antonio’s festival in Crockett Park, 1300 N. Main Ave, starts at 11 a.m. and includes LGBTQ focused and friendly informational booths from local resource centers and businesses, activities (the water dunk is always especially popular), a Pride Championship Wrestling match (4 p.m.), and live song and dance performances until 7 p.m.
Festival goers can watch the finish line of the Rainbow Dash and High Heel Race from Crockett Park, which inevitably becomes the most crowded place to watch the parade. Walking a few blocks north or south on Main Avenue will reveal lower-stress spots to enjoy.
2:30 p.m. Mass Wedding Ceremony
Judge Ron Rangel and Rev. Audrie Henry will perform a mass wedding ceremony for same-sex and opposite sex couples. The ceremony will be official and legally binding for couples (gay or straight) that have a marriage license and will be translated into Spanish by Rev. Rene Esparza, co-owner of Texas Wedding Ministers.
The Bexar County Clerk’s office issues marriage licenses during regular business hours at 101 E. Nueva, Monday – Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Remember to bring $81 for the cash-only application fee, birth certificates, and a picture identification card. Click here for details.
“If couples are unable to obtain their license in time, they are still welcome to participate. Once they have obtained the license, Texas Wedding Ministers will sign it for free,” states a news release. “Officiants from Texas Wedding Ministers will be on hand after the ceremony to sign marriage licenses and take photos.”
8 p.m. Rainbow Dash 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk
Starting at Hogwild Records – where the parade floats will be gathering for launch at 1824 N. Main Ave. – participants in the Rainbow Dash will run the length of the .6 mile parade route and then some. Registration must be completed before the race begins – $5 discounts are given to those that register before July 4. Click here for details.
8:45 p.m. Krystal Kelly “Running of the Queens” High Heel Race
Just before the parade kicks off, everyone is invited to attempt the free High Heel Race – which is exactly what it sounds like: participants sign a waiver and run a shorter, .4 miles of the parade route, on North Main Avenue, from the Silver Dollar bar to Crockett Park, in high heels. Careful, folks, it’s harder than you might think.
9 p.m. Parade
The centerpiece event of the day is, of course, the parade. Businesses and organizations from all over Bexar County participate in creating elaborate floats and costumes – some admittedly more exciting than others, but all in support and celebration of the LGBTQ Community.
Former San Antonio mayoral hopeful Leticia Van de Putte will join retired Lieutenant Colonel Nancy Russell and legendary drag queen Shady Lady as the parade’s grand marshals.
Former Sen. Van de Putte was widely considered to be the candidate that the LGBTQ community voted for during the June 13 runoff between her and Mayor Ivy Taylor. “Leticia Van de Putte has been in our parade almost every year since inception,” Poindexter said.
Russell, a local realtor, has been working to get funding and Congressional support of a LGBTQ veteran memorial in D.C.’s Historic Congressional Cemetery. She’s a board member for the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Veterans Memorial Project.
Three years ago, Shady Lady, from the MacAllen area, retired from drag show performances after about 40 years in the business, Poindexter said.
People won’t have to go far to find after parties on Saturday night. The parade route on the The Main Strip (a.k.a. “The Gay Strip”) is home to several bars and restaurants that will likely be packed to the brim with revelers.
For more information about Pride San Antonio events and initiatives – including its new softball league that starts its second season in the fall – visit www.pridesanantonio.org.
*Featured/top image: LGBTQ community rallies in the street during the 2014 Pride “Bigger Than Texas” Parade. Photo by Scott Ball.