Austinites young and old put on their rainbow shirts, pins, hats and tutus Saturday for the 20th anniversary of Austin Pride 2011, organized by the Austin Gay and Lesbian PRIDE Foundation’s (AGLPF).
Representatives from a diverse range of Austin organizations started with a Pride Parade beginning at Lady Bird Lake. Lingerie vendors, non-profits, restaurants, downtown clubs, religious communities, car dealerships, insurance companies, representatives from the Austin police and countless other groups lined up on Riverside in their cars, floats, and busses.
“I’m here supporting my community,” said Nadine Hughes, a female impersonator. “Pride every year is my time to give back to the community. And to let people know Austin may not be as big as the other cities in this state – but we’re just as fabulous.”
The parade began around 10:30 a.m. – which was a change from last years’ evening parade - and did a loop around the South 1st Street Bridge and East Cesar Chavez Street, Congress Avenue, and 4th and Guadalupe Streets.
The time switch was not the only change in this year’s pride celebration; the festival itself was moved from last year’s location at the Long Center to the Fiesta Gardens.
“This isn’t a new location for us. Actually, the first couple of PRIDEs in Austin were held at Fiesta Gardens,” AGLPF President and Austin Pride organizer Paul Huddelson said. “This year, we brought Pride back to its roots in Austin. We decided to bring the festival back to a day festival at the place where it all started and the parade back to a day parade, how it all started.”
The 2.2 mile driving distance between the start of the parade route and the location of the festival grounds did not seem to hinder attendance. A line more than 1,000 people long braved the midday sun to buy tickets at the door. Others bought their tickets in line and gained quick entry through the gates, which opened at noon.
Huddleson says that the numbers have mostly doubled, from what he can tell so far. Parade entries went up by 50 percent this year from last year. The number of people in the parade also doubled and he estimates an attendance of over 35,000 people for this year’s festival.
The City of Austin was among the many sponsors of Austin Pride 2011, says Huddleson. This involvement from the city helped PRIDE to incorporate a more diverse offering of festival booths.
“The city did charge things to us such as [parade] clean-up fees, and [festival] dumpster fees. A lot of the fees that they normally charge were actually waived," he said. "It’s how we were able to work with a lot of non-profits in Austin and waive their [booth] entry fees this year."
The number of booth vendors increased by about 15, Huddleson says. The official count will be taken later this week.