Austin celebrates 25th annual Pride Parade

Lauren Florence

An estimated 150,000 people flocked to downtown Austin on Saturday night for the city’s first Pride Parade since the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality this summer, according to event organizers.

At Austin’s 25th annual Pride Parade, thousands of people wearing tutus, glitter and rainbow clothing were showered with candy, condoms and Mardi Gras necklaces. Austin Pride Week ended with an all-day festival followed by a parade through downtown Austin. The volunteer-run Austin Gay and Lesbian Pride Foundation has organized and managed Austin’s annual Pride Week Celebration and Stonewall Rally since 2010.

Paul Huddleston, president of the Austin Gay and Lesbian Pride Foundation for five years, said that in his time as president he has seen the turnout of Pride Week continually grow. About 120,000 people attended the 2014 parade, according to the Austin Pride website.

“We see an increase every year, so every year requires a bigger push, bigger planning.” Huddleston said. “A big challenge this year was getting through the parade in just under two and a half hours.”

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The festival featured the largest lineup of entertainers and musicians ever compiled for the event, with about 40 artists split between two stages.

Festival tickets ranged from $15–$20, and proceeds from all Pride Week events, including the festival, will go to local nonprofits and charities supporting the LGBT community and legal rights.

All funds raised will be donated back to the community through the Austin Pride Cares program, formed by the Austin Gay and Lesbian Pride Foundation’s Board of Directors.

According to the Austin Pride website, the Austin Pride Cares program has donated more than $75,000 to various non-profit organizations since 2011.

Huddleston said the foundation will not know how much money it raised during this year’s Pride Week until a week or two after the parade because the foundation needs to total the money.

The foundation will donate the most money this year to Out Youth Austin, Project Transitions and the Transgender Education Network, according to Huddleston.

Austin Police Department Officer Sean Paap said there were no major security threats or incidents at the parade. Paap said the biggest issue is crowd control and removing people who are not authorized to march in the parade.

UT math professor Xavier Ros-Oton said it was his first time attending the Pride Parade. He said the presence of all of the companies that marched in the parade — such as Facebook, Apple and Dell, amongst others — was surprising and unexpected.

“My favorite part of the parade was seeing how happy everyone was to be there,” Ros-Oton said.

Aug. 25 was also the first time the Travis County Commissioners Court issued a proclamation recognizing Austin Pride, officially declaring Aug. 22 to Aug. 30 Austin Pride Week.