Houston Gay Pride Parade 2010

Mayor Annise Parker and partner Kathy Hubbard (facing camera) head up the Houston Pride Parade 2010

Give credit to the full moon if you want, but more likely it was not only great planning, but also the fact that Houston in the past year elected one of its own gay citizens as mayor, that made 2010’s Gay Pride Parade one of the most lively and quite well attended by a very diverse group of spectators and participants.  (From my own point of view, this parade was the best one since I began attending in the early 80s.)

Mayor Annise Parker, who was one of the honorary parade marshalls, and her partner Kathy Hubbard rode in one of the lead convertibles, and having a gay mayor seems to have positively affected many aspects of the parade.  There were many more elected officials in the parade than ever before.  And while, yes, it is an election year, I got the feeling that many of them were there because, now with a gay mayor, it’s “OK” to take part in the parade, and they also see the value of gay voters.

Tomo boys selling beer give some pre-parade interest

The parade entries represented a much broader spectrum than I’ve ever seen, from the traditional motorcycle and leather groups to businesses including a funeral home disco bus to a wide range of religious groups including Buddhists and (I think) pagans.

Starting at 8:45 PM, the generally smooth-moving parade ran just at about 2 hours, with very few people leaving early at has been the case in some years when the parade lost momentum because of long breaks between entries.  Many more floats and vehicles had pulsing music blasting out to the onlookers, of gay, straight, young,

Early spectators finding a spot to enjoy the pre-parade atmosphere in front of Bambolino's Pizza

old, sober, drunk and many other types, who were happily moving to the beat and catching tossed beads.  However, unlike last year, the atmosphere this year was one of festivity and communal enjoyment among among parade participants and spectators alike, rather than just a mad scramble to get the “loot’ tossed from the floats, as was my take on last year’s event.

Putting the final barriers in place before the parade

The metal barriers put along the streetsides were a better deterrent for keeping people from running out among the floats and other parade vehicles for dropped trinkets.  The parade volunteers did a good job of tossing misdirected beads out to viewers, and the police seemed to stay on task of keeping everything safe without

I'm not exactly sure what was happening, but I turned around and encountered this scene.

interacting a lot with parade goers.  This year there were no police on horseback out patrolling the street, after last year’s accident in which a woman watching the parade was trampled by a police horse.  Though one of the surprises of the evening was when I turned around and seven or eight of them were lined up behind me  on the corner of California and Westheimer.

Taquerias Arandas' mascot gettin' down to the beats from the Fuse float

One of the great things about the parade this year was seeing the broad mix of people both viewing and participating in the parade.  This diversity, somewhat due to the popularity of Mayor Parker, shows that more and more Houstonians see gay people and gay events as part of the entire Houston community, not “apart from” as has been the case in the past.

Houston Fire Department ladder truck, topped with reveling firefighters

(Though I have to admit, the photos I’m posting may not be as diverse as the event itself.  My blog–I’ll post what I like. I’ll upload more later.  Come back.)

The parade has changed and gotten larger, but one of the charms is that the floats and placards are, for the most part, created by the organizations themselves, not commercially made.  This “realness” adds even more connection between parade participants and spectators and makes for an even more festive atmosphere.  (“Festive”–that’s a gay word, ya know.)

KRBE and other stations brought the beat to the street

Link for post and photos of Houston Pride Festival (daytime)

Budweiser Beer Boys

Bead Vendor and Queer & Asian Houston (What more do I need to say?)

Bicycle Patrolman and Gay Asians and Friends (Houston--the city big enough for Gay Asians and Queer Asians (Now how much more diversity could one want?) But guys, you're really going to have to work hard to beat the Hello Kitties from last year.

Previous mayor of Houston and now gubernatorial candidate, Bill White, strides down the parade route, as he had done when he was Houston's highest official.

Always a place in the parade for some Pacific Street muscle--some of the crew from the Charles Armstrong Enterprises float (JR's, Montrose Mining Co, Meteor. and South Beach)

Stonewall Democrats prefer ass to elephant--(gotta love that)

Some "cueros" carrying the banner for Crystal Night Club

Out Houston City Council member, Sue Lovell

One of the best dancin' groups of the night--Gay Buddhists--I think, but not sure--my bad.

Where else but Montrose? Where else but the Gay Pride Parade?

Bubbling up with Bunnies on the Bayou and M2M Fashions

Part of the large Continental Airlines contingent

The full moon presides as the parade proceeds down Westheimer

   See story and photos of 2011 Pride Parade here.
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Houston Gay Pride Parade Follow-up: The Police and “Hello Kitty”

HPD officer enjoying himself big time with the "Hello Kitty" Brigade

HPD officer enjoying himself big time with the "Hello Kitty" Brigade

After all of the discussion about the Houston Chronicle story about the woman being trampled by a police officer’s horse at the Pride Parade and all the seeming interest in the “Hello Kitty” entry of the Gay Asians and Friends entry in the parade, I thought I needed to add another post. From the pictures, it’s very evident that at least one member of HPD was having the time of his life. Also, the “Hello Kitty” group was one of the most unique of the whole parade. (Thanks to Asians and Friends Houston for a couple of the photos.) Check out more of the parade and other Houston Pride events here.

Resting Kitties before the parade

Resting Kitties before the parade

Getting ready to start the parade

Getting ready to start the parade

Finally, going down Westheimer

Finally, going down Westheimer

Sad Note on Houston’s Gay Pride Parade When Woman Hurt by Police Horse

Houston Police Department leads the parade, members definitely in a festive mood with sirens going and bullhorns asking for noise from the crowd. Totally positive attitude from HPD, definitely different from years ago--shows how far everyone has come.

Houston Police Department leads the parade, members definitely in a festive mood with sirens going and bullhorns asking for noise from the crowd. Totally positive attitude from HPD, definitely different from years ago--shows how far everyone has come.

Apparently, there was a woman trampled by a police officer’s horse down near Stanford Street during the parade last night. The comments to the Chronicle article are saying all kinds of things, but I was quite a few blocks from there, so I can say nothing about what happened in that incident.

However, nothing I saw done by the police last night was negative; most everything was positive and then some. They had a great contingent leading off the parade. The head car, in fact, was one they use for recruitment and several of the officers walking alongside were gay (based on my “gaydar”). The police cars had sirens going and the lead car driver was trying to liven up the crowd, shouting things like, “Let’s make some noise” over his bullhorn.

These HPD officers very cordial with everyone as they patrolled the parade.

These HPD officers acted very cordially with everyone as they patrolled the parade.

The couple of street patrol officers who were in the area where I was standing often let people cross the street between floats in nice, easy-going way. They kept people off the street, but most of the time while they were near me, they were chatting about “nothing”, not saying anything about the parade or the onlookers. One of them seemed bored, and was engrossed in text-messaging for a good, long while.

I was paying attention to all that because I can’t say I always have had a “love” for the police, and sometimes at past parades, I had seen them be somewhat aggressive in their crowd control.

But I thought the involvement of the police, the firefighters, and even a group of city employees says a lot about how far everyone has come since the early years of the gay pride parades.

The problem is that almost every entry in the parade throws out beads or some other kind of small, cheap favor and half of the people scramble out into the street to pick up dropped ones or even go up to the float riders begging for more. On top of that, many of these same people have no sense about their own safety, because they are so intent upon getting these trinkets, and for quite a few, the alcohol factor can be added in.

I thought to myself as I watched last night that I had never seen so many adults acting like children when they were going after these little bits of cheap nothings, and the meaning of the parade itself was only secondary in their frenzy to grab anything that might be tossed toward the side of the street.

Read more about Houston’s Pride Parade here.

Gay Pride Houston 2009

At dusk, before the start of the parade--surrey tram bikes carrying parade-goers around.

At dusk, before the start of the parade--surrey tram bikes carrying parade-goers around.

View before the parade--Bambolino's Pizza--the big crowds are always further down--near the intersection of Montrose and Westheimer

View before the parade--Bambolino's Pizza--the big crowds are always further down--near the intersection of Montrose and Westheimer

Houston’s Pride Parade took place last night ( Saturday, June 27, 2009).  (Check out the 2010 parade here.) Not having gone last year, I decided to endure the heat and parking difficulties to go take it in. I’ve missed a few since my first parade in 1983, but not many. They changed through the years, but not so much. Houston’s Pride Parade is a typical parade of floats, marching groups, dignitaries, and commercial entries. Thousands of people attend, but the large majority watch from curbside rather than throng into the street as they do in some other cities.

Mayor Bill White gives me a wave.

Mayor Bill White gives me a wave.

Some differences from years gone by: fewer drag queens, fewer floats with muscle guys, fewer bar-sponsored floats. However, there are more marching groups of all kinds, more exuberant participation by public officials, police and firefighters, and many more business and corporate entries.

Likewise, the atmosphere has changed. What used to be a more raucous, festive parade with heavy-beat dance music pumped from the floats (there’s still a little of that) has become a sporadic frenzy of bead-grabbing, as almost every entry has colored chains and other chucherias to toss into the crowds alongside.

Part of the police contigent

Part of the police contingent

These crowds are definitely different from years gone by when it was mostly gays and lesbians and others of the “artsy” kind. Now it’s definitely a mixed crowd, and not exactly easy to always identify who is gay and who is straight or even “whatever”.

In my opinion, though, this Mardi Gras-like bead-tossing, while definitely bringing in a wider variety of people takes something away from the parade’s significance. So many people are jostling and running for the favors thrown out that they really could care less about the significance of the organization or people throwing them the “goodies”. Maybe this attraction helps make the many non-gays in the crowds more gay accepting. I think only the future knows if this is so. Anyway, the parade is a chance for everyone to have a good time and and enjoy the culture. Yes, it’s a culture, not a lifestyle, and a pretty fun culture if you get to know it.

(Check here for information about Houston Pride 2010.)

Some of the South Beach guys having a good time

Some of the South Beach guys having a good time

One of the more unique entries

One of the more unique entries

Gay Asians and Friends and "Hello Kitty"

Gay Asians and Friends and "Hello Kitty"

PFLAGHouston always gets a huge response from the crowds

PFLAGHouston always gets a huge response from the crowds

Guys from the Club Crystal float

Guys from the Club Cristal float

The Bunnies on the Bayou entry

The Bunnies on the Bayou entry

One of the many business and corporate parade participants

One of the many business and corporate parade participants

Impact Houston--one of the large number of activists groups participating

Impact Houston--one of the large number of activists groups participating