Organizers behind the first-ever pride parade in Pleasanton on Saturday, July 4, never thought they would see an event like this take place in a place they feel is staunchly conservative.
Azure Sky Ramos, who identifies as an ally to the LGBTQ community, and Chaise Balderas, an organizer and Grand Marshal for the parade, were just as surprised to see dozens of cars line the streets of Pleasanton in a safe manner due to the coronavirus for the impromptu parade.
“Being a part of the first pride parade, it was more exciting than I thought it would be,” Balderas said. “It’s definitely something I look forward to in the future.”
“It’s almost surreal seeing something like [the parade] happen,” Ramos said. “I’m just really joyful and appreciative of the people who came out and not only supported, but participated.”
Ramos initiated the planning process for the parade towards the end of June. However, due to a need for written permission from the Texas Department of Transportation and a short turnaround time to make that happen, it could not be a formal parade with roadblocks and police escorts, she said. Ramos deferred her leadership role to Balderas and Miliy Lynn, another Grand Marshal, after she found out she may have been exposed to COVID-19 and self-isolated out of caution.
The parade still sent out the message of love and inclusion that the group hoped to get across during the event.
“It was really heartwarming,” Ramos said. “It just goes to show and amplify the strength of the [LGBTQ] community and the resilience. There was a lot of positive outreach. It was something I never thought I would see in my lifetime here.”
Balderas hopes this parade and all future events will help people be more comfortable in their own skin in Atascosa County. After the parade, he received numerous phone calls and text messages from people thanking him and the group for making people feel comfortable and welcome during the parade.
“I’ve had a couple people text me, saying they admire it and that they feel a little bit more comfortable now being who they are,” Balderas said. “But I know there are a lot of people in this county who can’t express themselves the way they should be able to. That is something I look forward to, seeing the LGBTQ community grow in this county and also the parade growing each year.”