Round Rock resident Richard Parson had a good feeling on Saturday. That feeling didn’t waver, not even when a thunderstorm woke him at around four in the morning
He said he knew the skies would be clear for the city’s inaugural Pride Festival.
“I’m overwhelmed with happiness,” Parson said Saturday before the festival began. “I’m so excited, excited, and I can’t believe I’m not worried. It’s all coming together. It’s going to be beautiful.”
Pride Month is held in June to commemorate the 1969 uprising at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, which sparked the modern LGBTQ rights movement. Some of the first Pride parades were held the following year in a few large American cities. Official pride events began in Austin in 1990.
But pride festivals are now spreading to some surrounding communities. After witnessing community and city leadership support for the inaugural Gay Pride Festival in Taylor last year, Parsons decided to organize the LGBTQ community’s Round Rock celebration.
He started in August 2021 with a dream of “not a penny”. The city’s Department of Arts has given permission to hold the outdoor festival at Centennial Plaza.
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After that, support for the festival poured in. There were companies such as BookPeople, Trader Joe’s, Ikea and Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy as sellers, as well as community organizations such as Equality Texas and Texas Youth Helpline. Artists from the area, as well as Houston and San Antonio, have donated their time and talent.
“We had to turn down the vendors because the plaza was full,” organizer Ben Hilliard said. “So next year we’ll just have to grow up. I’m amazed. I was like, ‘If we had five sellers, I’d be fine. We have 42.'”
Students of all ages attended. Some teens came as part of a gay and lesbian alliance at their school. Many people wore the rainbow colors of the LGBTQ pride flag to celebrate their identities. The t-shirts bore slogans of support and love, such as “Mother’s arms free” and “Be yourself.”
“That’s history,” Parson said.
Cassandra Johnston, a resident of Round Rock since childhood, attended as an ally. I heard about the event on Facebook. Johnston noted that no longer everyone has to drive south to Austin for the Pride and Mega Festival. This event is usually held in August rather than June. (Regulators canceled it in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.)
“It’s a strange time to start, with COVID and all,” she said early on during the Round Rock event, but I’m glad they did. Seems to be a really good turnout. It’s just getting started, and there are tons of people out there.”
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Crystal Gonzalez, also a resident and member of the LGBTQ community, said she used to go to other cities to find Pride events. She has been attending Austin’s Pride for many years. Gonzalez did not expect to see so many people in attendance at the Round Rock Festival.
“It’s nice to have an ally here that I didn’t know we had,” Gonzalez said.
Tony Bluhetsky, American Statesman and KVUE Reporter, opened the event as MC. This was followed by the Austin Gay Choir to start the afternoon of performances. The band sang “Seasons of Love” from the musical “Rent”. The festival concluded with performances of drag queens.
Attendee Cristina Hernandez said she is a longtime activist with the Austin Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay civil rights organization in the country.
“It’s good to see more representation not only in Austin, but also in the surrounding areas,” Hernandez said. “Not only is Round Rock today, but Ploverville is about to have their inaugural Pride party, as well. Taylor is about to have their second Pride event this month. So it’s really great that we’re not just in this group in Austin.”
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Linder held her first pride party in May. Basrup prepares for its first Pride event on June 11th. The inaugural Pflugerville Pride Festival will take place on June 18. A second Taylor Festival will follow on June 25. .20.
Contact Nasiba Mizan at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @nusaiblah.