By Megan Smith
Get ready to get your Pride on . . . all week long! From June 21 through June 28, LGBT Houstonians and allies mark the city’s official Pride Week by celebrating community, equality, and this year’s LGBT victories. Crammed full of fabulously fun events, Houston Pride Week 2015 won’t disappoint.
The festivities kick off with a splash on June 21 with Pride Houston’s “Salvation: A Pride Pool Party” presented by Viniq Liqueur at HI-Houston: The Morty Rich Hostel (501 Lovett Blvd.). “There will be an open bar, nibbles and, of course, scantily clad men, daddies, boys, and ladies,” Pride Houston advertises. “Why sizzle in the sun if you can’t get a little wet.” The event runs from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m., welcomes everyone ages 21 and over, and charges a $20 admission fee that helps keep the Houston Pride parade and festival free.
But the delicious bites don’s stop with the pool party—join Pride Houston the following evening at Gratifi Kitchen and Bar (302 Fairview) for “Dine with Pride.” Sample some enticing eats while supporting both Pride and an LGBT-owned and -operated business.
Next up is the Pride Superstar Season 9 Finale on the evening of June 23 at South Beach Houston (810 Pacific St.). Come out to this free singing competition to cheer on your favorite contestant and see who is crowned this year’s champion.
Pride Week doesn’t leave out the ladies, either. “Eden: A Pride Girl Party”—a highly successful event dedicated to the women of the LGBT community—is back for its third year on June 24 at Pearl Bar (4216 Washington). Eden not only celebrates, but gives back to LGBT women—the event’s $5 cover charge benefits the Lesbian Health Initiative (LHI). “We’re very excited about our girl party,” Pride Houston CEO and president Frankie Quijano says. “Last year we raised over $2,000, and this year we hope to raise more for LHI.”
Fashionistas of all ages, Pride’s “Rock the Runway” is right up your catwalk. Happening June 25, this free annual fashion event has been completely revamped from previous years, Quijano says. Presented by New Amsterdam Vodka, this year’s show is rocking a new venue—Audi Central (2120 Southwest Fwy.)—as well as more couture fashion and an open bar. “This event has been completely redesigned to be more fabulous,” Quijano says. “In the past, it’s typically been a swimsuit and underwear thing. This year, we’ve eliminated most of the underwear, so it’s going to be more of a true fashion show. We have real lighting, a real runway, backdrops, and over 10 local and national designers. It’s going to be completely different than the past couple of years.”
Houston’s only circuit party, “Wonderland Houston,” also returns this year on June 26 at South Beach Houston. Promising “a new venue and better sound and lighting that will take you on a journey,” this 18+ party will also feature beats by world-renowned DJ Danny Verde of Italy and Houston’s DJ Chris Zane. “We’ve reduced ticket prices to make it affordable for everyone to attend,” Quijano adds, noting that this event’s proceeds help to keep Houston’s LGBT Pride Celebration free to attend.
Of course, all of these events build up to the crème de la crème of Pride Week, the 37th annual LGBT Pride Festival and Parade on June 27. Festival and parade attendees get a change of scenery this year, as the celebration has been moved from Montrose to downtown Houston where, in 1977, thousands protested against antigay crusader Anita Bryant on the steps of City Hall, Pride Houston notes. “The real reason we have Pride is because of Stonewall,” Quijano says. “And our own ‘Stonewall moment’ began with that protest against Anita Bryant in 1977 on the steps of City Hall in downtown. And the very next year, we had our first Pride parade. The legacy that began in 1977 will continue in 2015.”
Pride Houston expects to welcome over 425,000 people from all over the world to this celebration. This year’s expanded Pride festival—held around City Hall, Hermann Square, and Tranquility Park and featuring over 125 exhibitors—begins at noon and runs until 7 p.m. The parade then kicks off at 8:30 p.m. starting at the intersection of Milam and Walker streets. “We have seen an increase in support and eagerness to be a part of the fourth-largest Pride celebration in the United States,” Quijano says. He also notes that this year’s parade route is 100 feet longer than in previous years, allowing attendees more breathing room while watching the festivities.
“We fully expect to see a lot of colorful costumes out on the day of Pride,” Quijano says, explaining that the theme of this year’s Pride celebration is “Heroes.” “We’re hoping the entire community gets involved with it. Heroes are much more than just the ones we see in comic books—[we have] everyday heroes, parade marshals, and political heroes who stand up for our rights. Especially this year with HERO [the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance] going on, this theme should play an important and passionate role [throughout] Houston.”
The move downtown has also allowed for an expanded Family Fun Zone, an additional performance stage, new misting stations, and—for the first time ever—a fireworks display, Quijano says. He also notes the plan to bring back the iconic chandelier that used to hang above the parade route years ago. Make sure to bring your camera, because you won’t want to miss taking a selfie with this huge, glittering fixture in the sky!
Although the festival and parade are both free and open to the public, there are additional options for those who want to experience the celebration in VIP style. VIP tickets (available for purchase online) grant holders access to food, an open bar, stadium seating for the parade, goodie bags, and air-conditioned bathrooms, which are “always very popular,” Quijano laughs.
The night doesn’t have to end with the downtown fireworks, though—head over to South Beach Houston following the parade for the official Pride Houston After Party. A small cover will be charged at the door, and the club welcomes everyone 18+ to attend, and those 21+ to drink.
Pride Week closes with a new event this year, the Heroes Tea Dance. In traditional tea-dance fashion, this 21+ event will be held on the afternoon of Sunday, June 28, at F Bar Houston (202 Tuam St). All profits from the event’s $5 admission fee will benefit Bering Omega Community Services.
For a full list of Pride events, go to OutSmart’s complete Pride calendar.
For directions to the festival and parade, use your PC, laptop, or smartphone to enter the address of City Hall (901 Bagby St.) and get directions to downtown Houston. Parking is limited, so consider biking or taking public transportation. Visit ridemetro.org for information on all Metro services.