Austin Pride moves ahead with parade as officials raise concerns about large gatherings

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The 2021 Austin Pride Parade will be held in person in downtown Austin this weekend, following the 2020 parade’s postponement due to COVID-19.

Micah Andress, president of the Austin Gay and Lesbian Pride Foundation, confirmed in an email Monday the parade will continue as planned. The news comes after Austin-Travis County’s shift back into Stage 5 COVID-19 risk-based guidelines last week.

“We are still moving forward. We are encouraging masking, and people getting vaccinated. We are also enforcing social distancing between groups,” Andress said. “We will have masks and tons of hand sanitizer stations available. Our COVID safety plans have met the city’s standard set.”

On Tuesday, some concerns were raised during Travis County Commissioners Court about large gatherings.

“Is there any intent to consider doing anything differently, to not move forward?” District 9 Austin City Council member Kathie Tovo asked.

Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said the conversations with those in charge of events like Pride are in the works, but she wasn’t clear on whether the city can cancel it.

“…discussing mitigation strategies, and in some instances, making some changes as far as timing goes,” Walkes said.

The event marks a belated 30th anniversary celebration of the pride festival in Austin. The 2021 Austin Pride Parade is scheduled to begin Saturday at 8 p.m. in downtown Austin. The event is free and open to the public.

General Manager of Highland Bar and Lounge Jonathan Melendez said they will be taking part in the parade and throwing a party after.

“I have one of my favorite DJs from Houston coming into town to DJ for us all night,” Melendez said.

Melendez expects it to be packed but not up to Pride’s usual turnout.

“I can see 35% less people coming,” he said.

According to Melendez, Highland will make its guests wear masks, and he encourages everyone who is a part of the parade to do the same.

On Tuesday, KXAN reached out to Andress about this weekend’s events. We will update this story when we hear back.

At least one business has backed out of participating. Dragon’s Lair Austin posted it will withdraw from the parade for the safety of its employees, friends and family.

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