Gay Ride

Missed San Antonio's Fiesta? Didn't make it to Galveston's Mardi Gras? No problem. But make sure you're ready to stake your lawn chair on Westheimer and catch the biggest nighttime Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Pride Parade this side of Australia. "We were the first nighttime pride parade in the country," says the Pride Committee's Troy Christensen. "We based ours on Sydney's Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras; it's the biggest in the world, it's televised on Australian TV live. They were first, we were second, and this year Austin is doing one modeled on us!"

While Dallas was the first Texas city to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969, Houston has had an annual parade since 1979. It might have just droned along as a "Montrose thing" had someone not stated the obvious: Gee, it's hot in Houston in June. In 1997 the committee hosted the first nighttime parade in an effort to escape the Texas heat.

This year's two- to three-hour parade is expected to draw a crowd of 125,000. And organizers are cashing in on gay tourism with an entire Gay Pride Week, including lectures, kick-off parties and the first ever Pride Cabaret at the Alley Theatre.

"It took us a few years to learn how to light a nighttime parade," says at-large City Councilwoman Annise Parker. "But it's great now. The spotlights on the floats and cars, the walkers using Lumi-Lites." Parker was the first elected politician to take part in the parade and helped convince Mayor Lee Brown to ride in it, too. "Now everyone who's running is in it," she says.

Politicos, fantasy floats, bead throwing, drag queens and a handful of bussed-in East Texas protesters waving signs? Now that's a party you don't want to miss.

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Marene Gustin