Tammye Nash | Managing Editor
The 37th annual Tarrant County Gay Pride Week kicked off Thursday, Oct. 4, with a Pride Meet-and-Greet honoring this year’s grand marshal, honorary grand marshal and Raina Lea Award nominees. The fun continues with a full weekend of events scheduled in Fort Worth.
This year’s grand marshal is the Rev. Ken Ehrke, and honorary grand marshal is the Fellowship of Love Outreach Church. Entertainer Jerika Tailar is the Raina Lee Award winner.
The Rev. Ken Ehrke
Ehrke has been a pastor and activist in the LGBTQ community since 1982, and has pastored Metropolitan Community Church congregations in Maryland, Georgia and, in Texas, Corpus Christi and Fort Worth. He has volunteered with and served on the boards of Colorado AIDS Project in Denver, Whitman-Walker Health in Washington, D.C., Whitman-Walker Health Suburban Maryland (chairing that board), Food and Friends in Washington, D.C., and AIDS Interfaith Network and AIDS Outreach Center in Tarrant County.
Ehrke pastored Agape Metropolitan Community Church for eight years, and has been at Embrace United Church of Christ for the last four-and-a-half years. He was active in ministry to those with HIV/AIDS and their families in the 1980s and ’90s, helping coordinate care and conducting memorial services. He has also been a transgender advocate since the early 1990s and has helped countless men and women through the journey of transition to begin their true lives.
Ehrke has been a marriage and relationship workshop contract educator since 2008 in Tarrant, Johnson and Wise counties and has worked diligently to open those workshops to LGBTQ relationships. He is a trainer of the CBMCS Diversity
Workshops attended by all newly-hired employees from the Tarrant County Mental Health Connection Agencies, a member of the Tarrant County Mental Health Connection Diversity Committee and chair of the LGBTQ subcommittee. He has prepared numeours educational workshops on gay and transgender issues for the Mental Health Connection and for individual agencies, and in 2018 his LGBT subcommittee conducted six workshops on LGBT issues and two LGBTQ Safe Zone trainings for more than 300 employees from 40 different Tarrant County Mental Health Connection Agencies.
Embrace UCC hosts a monthly Coalition for Aging LGBT senior social luncheon, and Ehrke supports the Coalition for Aging LGBT events. He has been a supporter of LGBT foster families, LGBT families and LGBTQ teens for years, and currently serves on the board of Mission Central Food Pantry and Village Library in Hurst, as secretary of the North Texas Association of UCC and on the NTA Committee on Ministry and Executive Committee.
Rev. Ehrke and his partner, life companion and finally husband, Steve Grenzow, have been together since 1987.
Fellowship of Love
Fellowship of Love Outreach Church has ministered to the LGBTQ community for 31 years, and is known for lively music and worship. The Rev. Stacey Fox has been the pastor for 22 years, and the church moved to its current location, 500 Circle Park Blvd., on Jan. 1 this year, where the congregation and leadership are working to create living space for homeless LGBTQ youth, as well as counseling services, education and support for those youth.
Jerika Tailar, aka Jeric Craven, began doing impersonation in 1995 and moved from the Lubbock area to the Metroplex in 1998. Over the last several years, Jerika began serving the community as a member of the Imperial Court de FW/Arlington, holding many of their Line of Succession positions as well as supporting other organizations in and around Tarrant County.
She’s held many titles within the community, including Ms. Tarrant County At Large 1999, Miss Rainbow Pride 2000, Miss La Femme 2012-2014 and Miss Imperial Pride 2016.
Parade, Festival, Picnic
The Tarrant County Pride parade steps off at 11 a.m. down Commerce Street, starting at Weatherford Street and heading south through downtown to end at Lancaster Avenue. This year’s parade theme is “Remember the Past, Create the Future.”
The annual Pride festival, being held again this year at the Fort Worth Water Gardens, 1502 Commerce St., is from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission is $5, and organizer Tony Coronado said the Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association is charging an admission fee “mainly for security reasons. We had never charged to attend any of our Pride events [until last year when the festival was moved to the Water Gardens], and we had a hard time making the decision to do so. But it really is the best way to ensure security at the festival.”
This year’s festival will feature entertainment by Ari Crush and Alex Marie Brinkley, female impersonators, dancing and a Super Hero Contest for children and adults in the amphitheater. The MerFriends will be at the festival from 1-3, taking photos with fans at the aerated pool and at the quiet pool. Other characters will also be available for photos.
Pride weekend continues on Sunday with the Pride Picnic and Treasure Hunt/Pet Fest, from noon-6 p.m. at the Pavilion in Trinity Park, just off 7th Street in Fort Worth. The event is free and will include vendors, dancing and live entertainment.
Coronado said that this year’s parade will have about 50 entries, and that prizes will be awarded to the best entries in various categories.