ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — When Round Rock resident Richard Parson attended last year’s inaugural Pride festival in Taylor, he said he left knowing he wanted to bring the first-ever LGBTQ+ celebration to his city.
This year, the city of Round Rock is the one making history, with council to approve a proclamation Thursday evening declaring June “National Pride Month.” This precedes next month’s first-ever Round Rock Pride Festival, taking place June 4 at Centennial Plaza.
It’s both a moment, and a movement, years in the making, Parson said.
“It’s historic,” he said. “It’s the first one in Round Rock, and it’s significant because of the indication of the growth of our [LGBTQ+] community.”
Last August, Parson founded Round Rock PRIDE, the organization which will host the city’s inaugural Pride fest. He credited Taylor PRIDE for planting the seed that Central Texas cities outside of Austin can, and should, bring Pride festivals to their own neck of the woods.
Since its first-ever festival, Taylor PRIDE has become a registered nonprofit organization hosting community events, food pantries, city cleanup initiatives and helping other cities develop their own Pride organizations and launch their festivals.
“Taylor Pride’s inaugural Pride Festival was Williamson County‘s ‘coming out’ party,” said Denise Rodgers, president of Taylor PRIDE. “We had no idea the ripple effect it would cause.”
Round Rock, Leander, Cedar Park, Pflugerville and Temple will all host inaugural events this year. To see a burgeoning LGBTQ+ community in Round Rock, Parson said, has been awe-inspiring.
“For this to be taking place in our city, in Round Rock, means that we can now shine in our own sphere, not having to go somewhere else to find ways to contribute and to enjoy other people’s company,” he said.
The Round Rock Pride Festival will feature a parade, LGBTQ-centric vendors, live entertainment and a performance from the Austin Babtist Women comedy troupe, who are performing free of charge after they voiced their support for this first-ever festival.
“It will be fun. It will be fabulous. It will be colorful,” Parson said. “It is what we need.”
While Pride is often seen as a celebratory occasion, Parson added it is also a critical moment to remember and reflect on the legacy of the LGBTQ+ rights movement and those who lost their lives fighting for their rights. Parson noted statistics that show LGBTQ+ teens are more than four times likely to attempt suicide than their peers, with even higher percentages among transgender and non-binary youth.
The glitz and glam of Pride festivals are an important part of their celebratory nature, he said. However, he added they exist as a reminder to remember and preserve history, as well as to care for and nurture LGBTQ+ youth looking for acceptance.
“I am honored to be doing this but I feel such a presence with me all the time,” he said. “It’s as if there are those who’ve come before who are encouraging us to do this. It’s a very powerful feeling.”