Dallas Pride Executive Director Jaron Turnbow talks about the event being rescheduled

Dallas Pride Executive Director Jaron Turnbow last week announced that the Pride organizing committee has decided to postpone this year’s festival and parade due to concerns over the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

With disaster declarations requiring residents to stay in place across North Texas through at least April 30 and no guarantee the orders will be lifted before the end of May, the celebration originally scheduled for June 6-7 has now been delayed until July 25-26. This week, Turnbow talked with Dallas Voice about that decision.

— Tammye Nash

Dallas Voice: What were the primary factors that convinced the committee to reschedule the celebration? Dallas Pride Executive Director Jaron Turnbow: The overwhelming factor for us is safety, first and foremost. For Dallas Pride, we monitored the news closely and worked with Fair Park and city officials to inform ourselves and make the best decision we could make. Though it was a big decision, we would rather push Pride back than risk anyone’s health and safety.

Over my last 15 years with Dallas Pride, I have gotten to know many of the other executive directors and presidents of Pride organizations, large and small, from across the U.S. and in other countries. Many of us have been leaning on each other, setting up Zoom meetings, webinars and phone conversations to try and figure this out as a team of pride organizers.

During this pandemic, we all have had the exact same questions: Do we keep our dates? Should we postpone? Should we cancel? And what are the consequences of each decision?

The overwhelming consensus is simple: safety first.
There is no roadmap or rulebook for us as events to go by, since no one was prepared for this virus and level of disruption. We’re all figuring it out together as Pride organizers, as a community, and as a nation.

How did the Pride committee settle on the dates of July 25-26? What factors came into play in making that decision? Many people don’t know the amount of planning involved for an event of this size! There are so many moving parts at play that it is hard to just switch gears and pick a new date. We had discussions with the venues, our local float maker, event contractors, entertainers, sponsors and even other Pride events across the country. This date worked for everyone.

How does this change affect previously-set deadlines for grand marshal nominations/elections, vendors/entries in the festival or the parade, etc.? Are there new deadlines, and, if so, what are they? It will for sure change all of the current deadlines. Since we have made the decision to postpone, we are still working through what those new deadlines will be, as there are many conversations to be held about them.

As we do get all of those worked out, we’ll get the word out through emails to current and potential parade/festival applicants, social media, our website and, of course, the Dallas Voice.

Has the shut down and the subsequent delay affected sponsors for the weekend? What about performers? Did you already have people under contract? If so, can they perform on the new dates? As of today, it has not affected already-signed sponsors. Current and even potential sponsors have been extremely supportive. It’s actually very frustrating, because before the pandemic took hold, we were having our best year for sponsorship inquiries and an exceptional year for parade and festival applicants.

We already had our headliner on contract, deposits paid and were about to announce it when all this really took hold. Luckily, they are still available for the new dates. Once we get the initial switching of gears done for postponement, we’ll get back to doing the fun stuff like announcing entertainment. I’m really excited for our headliner this year.

I have seen people complaining that the end of July will be too hot for the festival/parade. Talk about why that is or is not a concern for the festival (Won’t much of it be inside?) and for the parade (Is there a way to arrange for misters or something similar to help people cool off)?  With a large portion of the festival being indoors at Fair Park with A/C, that’s a huge plus. We have hundreds of thousands of square feet of indoor, air-conditioned event programming. As for the outside portions for the festival and parade, we are working on cooling ideas. We already had some ideas planned before the postponement; they’ll just be needed even more now, and we are working on them. There are also a lot of shaded areas at Fair Park, which helps.

What are some of the “lessons” the committee has learned from the change to Fair Park last year? What, if any, changes can people expect this year? Any time you move an event, you have hurdles to overcome in regard to logistics. From a feedback standpoint, we were overwhelmed [last year] with the amount of positive Facebook messages, emails, phone calls we received — even compliments at the event itself — and it was quite overwhelming.

We even had positive feedback from people who had never been to the parade before but had seen it for the first time on CW 33 and were already making plans to attend in 2020.

We had more new sponsor inquires this year than we have ever had, and the record opening day of parade and festival applications was mind-blowing.

We are excited about the momentum that the move to Fair Park has generated, and we plan to put on another great event this year. I think one of the things we have learned is that Fair Park allows us so many possibilities in regard to the festival that I really don’t think any two years are going to be the same, so I would recommend expecting things to evolve each year!

What changes can people expect to see just because of the rescheduling? Nothing necessarily due to the reschedule itself. We are continuing to be creative and think of how we utilize this opportunity to share our message and celebrate with our friends and allies. I do think people will notice an increased focus on safety for this event and all events happening in the Dallas area.

You guys had a very short amount of time for planning, etc., last year because of the change from September to June. This time, you have had a year, and now a year plus, basically, two months. What has that extra time allowed you to do? Certainly, the change in date has taken some of that time from us. I’ve spent many sleepless nights staring at Word documents and Excel spreadsheets! But with an event this size, it’s really not just about how many months you have before the next one; it’s really more about the strength and dedication of the committee that is bringing it to life. We have a great team at Dallas Pride, so I’m confident that we will continue to bring new, engaging ideas to the table and to our event. We have a lot of fun planned for Dallas Pride in July.

Other than changing the dates, how has the COVID-19 crisis affected Pride? Are any of the committee members/organizers/volunteers sick that you know of? Are you going to have to put into place extra precautions in terms of preventing spread of coronavirus or other diseases? Thankfully, as far as I know in relation to Dallas Pride, everyone has been safe and healthy. We will be going above and beyond to keep everyone involved safe and healthy. We have already talked to our janitorial company about what extra steps we can take to accomplish this.

What else do people need to know about Pride and the rescheduling? We are in this together, and none of us have all the answers. We’re all taking it one day at a time just like everyone else. My hope, and the hope of every Pride event organizer across the globe, is that the LGBTQ+ community understands that we are doing the best we can with the current info available to us.

The safety of everyone involved is our top priority. It’s also understanding that Pride events are crucial to the LGBTQ+ community. It’s not just about being visible; it’s also about coming together as a community with our allies and giving everyone a safe and welcoming place to celebrate who we are.

Pride events give those who don’t have the luxury of living in a big city like Dallas, Austin or Houston the chance to come and have fun with others like them. It gives families a chance to bring their LGBTQ+ child or teen out to the festivities to show them they aren’t alone. We will do our best to have a fun and safe Pride event in July, just as we have for the last 36 years.