Amarillo Pride celebrations to kick off in wake of Orlando tragedy
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By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Last year, Amarillo's gay community gathered to celebrate the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage across the country. This year, they gather in the wake of a tragedy — the deaths of 49 people at Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12.
Whether in joy or in sorrow, though, Pride celebrations offer a vital service to the area's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population, said Panhandle Pride board member Jake Mitchell.
"Pulse is just the latest in a long line of things — the UpStairs Lounge, Stonewall, Matthew Shepard and thousands of other things that have happened," Mitchell said. "But Pride isn't about that. It's about remembering what we have accomplished, what we still have to do, and for people to come out and be whoever the heck they want to be without people judging them."
Mitchell was referring to the UpStairs Lounge fire in 1973, in which 32 people died in an arson fire at a New Orleans club; the Stonewall riots, which launched the modern gay rights movement in 1968; and the 1998 death of Shepard, which put a new face on hate crimes committed against gay men and women.
"The whole focus on this is really so people can find a friendly face," Mitchell said. "It may be somebody in their 40s who doesn't know who to talk to or somebody beginning to find out they're transgender."
They'll all come together at the event's centerpiece, the Panhandle Pride Festival and Celebration in Memorial Park, 28th Avenue and Washington Street. The party runs from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday and will feature a parade in the park at noon, a drag show put on by 212 Club at 1:30 p.m. and live music from Mike Fuller at 12:15 p.m., Mary Lyn Halley and Dean Yates of Insufficient Funds at 2:30 p.m. and Amarillo/Denver folk-rock band Dear Marsha at 4 p.m.
The free festival also will feature a potluck picnic, free food from several vendors, a bouncy house, a silent auction, a volleyball tournament, free and confidential HIV testing and more.
Weekend activities also include a free screening of The Danish Girl, the Oscar-winning film about transgender pioneer Lili Elbe, at 7 p.m. Friday at Amarillo Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 4901 Cornell St., featuring a post-film discussion led by Amarillo transgender activist Sandra Dunn, as well as food and beverages; and the Miss Gay Top of Texas at Large pageant at 10:30 p.m. Sunday at 212 Club, 212 S.W. Sixth Ave.
Last year's festivities drew more than 3,000 to the park, and Mitchell said he is anticipating even more this year.
"This year, we're expecting close to double that," he said. "We've already doubled the number of vendors. ... The whole family is welcome. It's an all-ages thing."
Admission is free, and attendees can bring picnic food and coolers with beverages, though no glass bottles are allowed in the park.