ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Abilene’s first-ever pride festival is all ready to go for Saturday. It’s a long time coming, but when the Abilene PRIDE Alliance stepped into its planning phase, hopes weren’t too high. The alliance’s goal was to have as many 30 vendors at the event and to their delight, the amount of vendors that will be in attendance nearly doubled – as well as the support the alliance has received.
Gavyn Hardegree, Events Chair for the Abilene PRIDE Alliance, told KTAB/KRBC they moved to the Key City in 1998 and since then, a lot has changed.
“It has been refreshingly positive,” said Hardegree, explaining that Abilene has become more accepting.
For Abilene’s first-ever Pride parade, Hardegree said the original goal was up to 30 vendors, but now they have 54 vendors. That number nearly doubling makes Hardegree wish they could encourage their younger self to keep on their path.
“I would say, ‘just hang on. It’s going to get better, and you’re going to be blown away by the support,’” Hardegree said through tears.
One of these vendors include Book Therapy. Elizabeth Powell, whose family owns the Abilene used bookstore, is on the board of the Abilene PRIDE Alliance. Powell told KTAB/KRBC she thinks more people in Abilene are opening up to loving others for who they are.
“It’s a great opportunity to show that openness to the entire city – the entire state… [To] just be that beacon of acceptance and affirmation within Texas,” Powell encouraged.
Powell said her father is supporting her by being in the parade while she volunteers at the festival.
Blaine Beyer, Communications Chair, said there was a pride event in 1999 and in 2019, but this is the first parade and festival. He told KTAB/KRBC this parade is well past due and said he believes now is the time for the LGBTQ+ community to stand up for being true to who they are.
Images provided by Abilene PRIDE Alliance:
(Left) Abilene Pride parade 1999, (right) 2019
Beyer told a story of an Abilene resident who was fired from their job just a week earlier for being gay.
“This is not about, ‘Oh, this is our sexuality, let’s put it on a parade.’ That’s not what this is about,” Beyer cleared. “This is about people who have been killed. This is about people who are persecuted. This is about people who can’t get jobs.”
Abilene’s Pride parade begins at 2:00 p.m. Saturday, starting on Pine Street and finishes along North 1st Street.
The parade will walk along the old Walnut Street Pub – one of the first gay bars in Abilene which welcomed in a church after it was kicked out of its building for having some members of the congregation belong with the LGBTQ+ community.
After the parade, the event will move to the Nelson Park Festival Gardens across from the Abilene Zoo, starting at 3:00 p.m. with many events; including a drag show at 7:30 p.m., and complete with food trucks.
The zoo will also be open from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday with free admission. Admission fees were donated by the Abilene PRIDE Alliance.