Houston Pride celebrates in the streets with big gay parade

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Record crowds flocked downtown for the Houston Pride parade on Saturday, electrified by the decision a day earlier from the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage. 

Tens of thousands of LGBT revelers and their progressive supporters filled the parade route along Walker and Smith – the first time for the parade in downtown in its 36-year history in Montrose. The crowds at the parade and festival hardly noticed the venue change, topping a record 700,000 people for the day-long celebration, according to a Pride Houston estimate culled from police, city officials and its own measurements.

“We expected a large crowd but we were blown away by the support of the LGBT community and our allies who came out to celebrate history in our new location,” Pride Houston CEO Frankie Quijano said in a press release. “This was a special celebration right in front of where Houston’s own ‘Stonewall’ moment began in 1977 with the protests against Anita Bryant.”  

The parade, 130 entries strong, was led by Mayor Annise Park and her wife, Kathy Hubbard, along with a contingent of openly LGBT Houston police officers. Several of the candidates hoping to replace Parker – Adrian Garcia, Sylvester Turner, Marty McVey, Steve Costello and Chris Bell – either marched in the parade or had a contingent of supporters take part.

Other elected officials also joined the parade, including gay City Council members Robert Gallegos and Mike Laster, and council colleagues Ellen Cohen and David Robinson. Transgender City Council candidate Jenifer Rene Pool and Houston City Controller candidate Chris Brown also took part. Supporters of U.S. Reps. Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee also marched.

Harris County Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen had a contingent of officers and equipment in the parade again this year. But absent was recently appointed Sheriff Ron Hickman, who declined to follow his predecessor Garcia and take part in the event. 

Supporters of the event called it a resounding success. 

“Pride Houston’s move to downtown allowed the festival to spread out across a larger area,” A.J. Mistretta, senior public relations manager with Visit Houston, said in a press release. “Downtown business, including bars, restaurants and hotels saw a spike in activity, particularly on Saturday, a trend we expect to grow as more people recognize that Houston offers an incredible Pride event.”

The parade included a diverse list of entries, from elected officials to churches, bars, colleges, brands, bears, go-go boys and non-profits. Participants also included Honorary Grand Marshal Deborah Duncan and elected Grand Marshals Ryan Levy, Britt Kornmann and Anna Eastman. 

Austin Wallis, a YouTube sensation and gay high school student pushed out of his private Christian school in Houston, also took part. And Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, the first gay couple married in Texas, rode on the Keshet Houston float. (Several LGBT couples were married in Houston on Friday in the hours after the Supreme Court decision.) Chad Pitt, a gay personality from MIX 96.5, joined Sarah Pepper from HOT 95.7 and Nina Lombardo to emcee the parade.

The parade was the highlight of a busy Pride week, including an expansive festival at City Hall earlier in the day, the Salvation Pool Party, the Pride Superstar Finale and Rock the Runway. Pride also included an overwhelming slate of nightlife fun too, including Wonderland Houston and an After Party at South Beach, and divas and the Heroes Tea Dance at F Bar.

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