Carrollton’s first Pride event ‘couldn’t have gone better,’ organizer Bob McCranie says

TAMMYE NASH | Managing Editor

“If I ever suggest getting a bucket of chicken and going to the park for a picnic, knock me in the head,” Bob McCranie said this week, joking about how what started as a simple picnic in a Carrollton park to celebrate Pride Month and encourage people to get out and vote in the city’s runoff election turned into Carrollton Pride.

It really all started with the city elections in early May. The races for Place 1, Place 5 and Place 7 “all had strong chances of going to runoffs,” McCrainie said, and he knew that if that happened, the key to an ultimate victory would lie — as is often the case — in voter turnout in the runoffs.

As it happened, Steve Babick won the Place 1 council seat without a runoff. But Nancy Kline and Annette Reese were in a runoff for Place 5, while Rusty Pendleton and Michelle Ocker made the runoff for Place 7. So McCranie approached a friend with the city and asked about requirements for using a city park for a picnic. After it was “subtly suggested” that he not try to use the city park — “and I’m still not sure why” — McCranie asked about using the field west of the Horizons Unitarian Universalist Church for the picnic. “Then we said, ‘You know what, forget about the field. With all this rain, it might be really wet. Can we use part of your parking lot?’ And they said sure.”

McCranie is a Realtor and owner of Texas Pride Realty. Since he was primarily footing the bill for this little Pride picnic, he figured it was only fair that Texas Pride Realty have a booth at the event. Then one booth turned into five booths. And five booths turned into 40 booths, plus a food truck and even an ice cream truck.

In the end, he said, “I’m guessing around 600 people showed up. We filled that parking lot up easily. It could not have gone better.”

Mayor Kevin Falconer was there, along with “about half the council. The mayor pro-tem [Steve Babick] even opened the event.” The council also approved a proclamation honoring Pride in Carrollton.

“I have never done anything on this scale before, and we threw it all together in just 47 days. It took a lot of preparation and last-minute planning, but it was totally worth it. Everyone had a great time,” McCranie said.

“After 18 months [of COVID-19 and the resulting quarantine], our community really needed to get out and see each other again. And this just happened in the right spot at the right time,” he continued. “After four years of Trump and 18 months of COVID, our whole country is in flux, trying to get back to some semblance of normal. And everybody just needed that release.”

For McCranie, who remembers what happened when he first moved to Carrollton and became active in city politics, Saturday’s Carrollton Pride celebration was even sweeter.

“In 2003, when I moved here, nobody was doing LGBTQ work outside The Loop [I-635],” he said, recalling how, when he started volunteering to work the polls at city elections, letters started going around calling on officials to get rid of “Gay Bob.” He also recalled how, when then-Mayor Becky Miller participated in Dallas’ Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, Carrollton residents started circulating petitions calling on the council to pass a law prohibiting city officials from participating in Pride events again.

“In 18 years, to go from all the threatening letters and the petitions and ‘Get rid of Gay Bob’ to this event, it’s just amazing. It all just clicked,” McCranie said. “And this shows, too, that Pride doesn’t have to be some mega-monolithic event. It truly can be just a bucket of chicken in the park!

“Now it’s time to start planning for next year.”