ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – After months of planning and not quite two weeks before the event was set to commence, the Abilene Pride Festival was cancelled. It was set to be held at the Taylor County Expo Center to accommodate a larger crowd, but the expo center pulled out, citing an issue with a lack in security presence. Nevertheless, the parade will go on as planned.
Elizabeth Powell, Vice President of the Abilene Pride Alliance spoke to the first pride festival last year at Nelson Park, which featured vendors, food trucks, and more.
“[There were] a little over 1,800 people at the festival last year. When we were ready to open up the gates and everything, we had a line wrapped around the park,” recalled Powell.
The pride alliance told KTAB/KRBC it was looking forward to a larger space at the Taylor County Expo Center to provide more room for activities.
“We needed to upgrade the venue,” Powell explained. “We wanted one where we could have more vendors, more people, because even at the park, it still got crowded.”
The event was canceled on Friday, organizers citing security concerns being the factor. Although the expo center has its own security for events, Rochelle Johnson, General Manager of the Taylor County Expo Center, said the Abilene Pride Alliance had an agreement with an outside source to provide security for this event.
“We tried figuring out some other alternatives, but those alternatives did not work for the expo center in terms of security and law enforcement,” said Johnson.
Due to special security concerns arising from the controversial nature of this event, more security was needed.
“Because of what it is and because we have had, we’ve been contacted by people who plan to protest the event. We needed security, law enforcement at the gate, as well, to prevent any conflicts that might harm somebody,” Johnson expanded.
Planning for an event like this takes months, according to Powell. From all the events the Pride Alliance throws, she said they never had any issues with security. So, canceling was the last thing they wanted to do.
“Security issues were the main reason that they canceled. So, once they let us know, we tried looking for another venue and there just wasn’t one in town last minute that had the capabilities to have that many people and 75 vendors,” continued Powell.
As a therapist, Powell told KTAB/KRBC she knows how important and life saving pride events can be. Although the festival is off, the parade is still set to go on this Saturday, September 30 at 2:00 p.m. in Downtown Abilene.
“Having these kinds of events can help them feel supported and really save lives, and make people’s quality of life so much better,” Powell added.
Due to the cancelation, some vendors set to be at the festival rallied to create their own event not affiliated with Abilene Pride Alliance. These vendors are calling it the “Rainbow Market.” You can visit the rainbow market from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. at 201 Mesquite on Saturday.