Signed, Sealed, Delivered

The organizers of Austin Pride 2012 have a lot to celebrate

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

If the financials and attendance figures for Austin Pride 2012, held this past September 22, seem a little past due, perhaps the five volunteers who make up the Austin Gay and Lesbian Pride Foundation (AGLPF) can be forgiven.

With little seed money, the organizers of the festival upped the ante – adding an ambitious mix of new attractions (flash mobs, carnival games), national performers (Peaches, Stacey Q), and a longer, nighttime parade route. After 2010 Pride’s cultural and financial mismanagement left the future of Pride uncertain with coffers not only bare but grossly in the red, many remained skeptical into 2012 that new AGLPF could pull it off. Well, pull it off they did.

The hard work for September’s event finally paid off Thanksgiving week in the form of checks written to more than 25 mostly local non-profits. Gauging by attendance alone, 2012’s Pride was the most successful year in its history. More impressively, the AGLPF were able to put on the expanded festival with plenty of cash left over for community non-profits. The charitable contributions this year totaled $40,000 in immediate support, with an additional $10,000 reserved for funding emergencies like this summer’s United Way cuts. Those donations were on top of more than $12,000 in discounts to non-profits on booth and parade fees issued this festival. In two years time, the AGLPF went from being distrusted and in the red to being a philanthropical force.

AGLPF Vice President Benny VandenAvond beams, “Pride may not be the LGBT's biggest fundraiser, but it’s the most accessible fundraiser. It allows the majority of our community to make a positive impact.” Indeed Pride 2012 profited from a surfeit of community support. The 5K run climbed from 2011’s 300 participants to 900 this year, the festival size almost doubled to 7,000 attendees, and the parade grew from 25,000 to an estimated 70,000-100,000 onlookers. Treasurer and entertainment czar Nathan Garcia laughs “next year, we are adding barricades for the crowd.”

As the attendee count grows, so does the diversity represented. The board was careful to make sure this year’s charitable donations reflected that. Although the board chooses a few featured beneficiaries that they work with year round, most are selected after the event. VandenAvond explains that Austin Pride board is unique in that each member “gets to choose a cause that they care about. Once we evaluate our financials, each member gets X amount of dollars to donate.” That process leads to support for not just LGBT centered organizations such as PFLAG or Project Transitions, but also organizations that serve the general Austin community such as Planned Parenthood or Pets Alive.

Given that Pride 2012's financial take exceeded all expectations, a victory lap would seem to be in order. Surprisingly, the board is hesitant to bask in the glow. Board President Paul Huddleston laughs that the celebration has to be postponed. “We're tired.” Instead, they have already begun sketching out next year’s events. VandenAvond wants to do a better job of reaching Austin’s disparate LGBT communities. And Garcia impishly teases that he’s begun the process of booking 2013’s performers. It seems there is no resting on laurels for the AGLPF board. And with more seed money for next year’s event, they seem prepped to raise the bar again.

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Austin Pride, Peaches, Nathan James Garcia, Pride, 2012, $40,000, in the black, debts paid

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