Organizers say rising costs force fee increase, limit on entries for 2008 event
Anyone wanting to participate in this year’s Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade needs to take action quickly.
Due to rising popularity, this year’s parade requires a bit more cash and preparation from both participants and parade coordinators, organizers said. In addition to higher application fees, annual Pride parade, organized by the Dallas Tavern Guild will only accept the first 80 parade applications submitted.
According to the application, "parade management and time constraints" limit the number of entries this year.
Dallas Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman said for the sake of traffic, the "streets can’t be closed for too long," because the Dallas Police Department wants the two major streets interrupted by the parade route reopened by 4 p.m.
The Guild also answers to the city of Dallas’ Office of Special Events. The requirements set by this department contribute heavily to the parade’s expenses, Doughman said, adding that the stricter city codes were implemented as a result of Homeland Security legislation enacted after the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Guidelines established by the Office of Special Events — which organizers have to meet to get the required parade permits — were not an issue in the past because the parade has not always been as big as it is now, Doughman said.
Until four years ago, the Pride parade was not considered a mega-event, or an event expected to draw at least 20,000 people. The 2007 event drew in more than 35,000 spectators, and about 50,000 are expected this year, Doughman said.
And more people means more maintenance for organizers.
Doughman said parade costs have nearly tripled over the past four years to a sum of about $130,000, including insurance and a sufficient number of portable toilets and trash cans. The Tavern Guild also uses two dozen golf carts during the event and has to hire a trash maintenance crew to clean up both during and after the event, in addition to having to rent extra Dumpsters.
Doughman said security costs alone have more than doubled over the past two years, going from $12,000 to $25,000. The increase is due in large part to city codes that require metal link barricades to keep spectators out of the streets and at least four phones that are used for communication during the parade. Organizers also have to pay for motorcycle officers to continuously check the barricades to make sure over-enthusiastic spectators obey the rules.
Doughman said the Tavern Guild hires more than 60 Dallas police officers for the parade, and has maintained a "very amicable relationship with the police department."
The city code also requires a fully staffed command post with a designated communications dispatcher, at least one command level Dallas police official and one Dallas Fire- Rescue official.
Parade planners must also provide media vehicles for an "awareness program" that publicizes the parade schedule, parade route, first aid locations, public transport locations, restroom facility locations, handicap access area and parade rules for at least 24 hours prior to the parade’s start.
Because the cost of staging the parade have risen so dramatically, organizers have been forced to increase fees for those participating. The new fees range from as little as $150 for non-profit organizations to as much as $750 for national or franchised businesses.
Doughman said he realized this could keep some organizations from participating. But he noted that, compared with similar-sized parades in other cities, "Our parade fees are below the average."
In other places, the public is charged admission to attend the parade. But not in Dallas, Doughman said.
"We don’t charge the public. We keep it low for the people," he said.
If the Tavern Guild does not raise enough money to meet all of the city’s requirements, Doughman warned, there may not be a parade.
"A lot of people don’t realize what we need," he said. "We miss one [requirement], and we don’t get a permit."
But despite the financial constraints, Doughman remains positive: "It’s our 25th anniversary. We’d like it to be special."
The 25th annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade will be held Sept. 21, starting on Wycliff Avenue and moving down Cedar Springs Road to end in Lee Park.
Go online to www.dallasprideparade.com to download a parade entry application or festival entry application.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 28, 2008