Dallas is a vibrant city full of spiritual, artistic people--if you know where to look. Our city's twin faults of searing summer heat and ridiculous sprawl have a way of keeping Pagans isolated (and indoors). Still, in recent years, Pagan events have begun to pop up around the city, uniting some of our scattered groups for a day of merriment and fellowship.
If you've never attended a Pagan Pride gathering, you're missing out. Though increasing visibility and religious tolerance are part of the aim of a Pagan Pride Day, it's usually less of a demonstration or rally than a big party for Pagans and their friends. (Read: So much fun!) A lot of Pagans practice alone or in small groups, and just being around so many kindred souls can be awe-inspiring. Events can range from a simple get-together in the park to large, highly organized affairs. Workshops and guest speakers, vendors, picnics, music and public ritual are some of the entertainment to be found. You can bring your kids and (usually) pets. You can wear your kilt, corset or fairy wings. (Or all three, if you like!) You can educate yourself and others at a tradition-share or discussion panel. There's usuallly a food drive, blood drive, charity raffle or other opportunity to contribute to the community and show 'em that Pagans are decent folks, really!
Pagan events have had a slow start in Dallas, but seem to be gaining momentum. The Unitarian Universalist Church in Oak Cliff played host to small-ish Pagan Pride gatherings in 2009 and 2010. (Oak Cliff UU still participates in Pagan events--their annual Yule party is a treat.)
After a time-out in 2011-2012, probably our largest Pagan Pride Day (to date) was held at the Bath House Cultural Center at White Rock Lake on October 5, 2013. It was a smashing success (despite rain and a bit of chill), with hundreds of area Pagans in attendance. (Here's the complete lowdown from blogger John Beckett.) I still hear people murmuring about the lakeside closing circle, led by Denton CUUPS.
The historic Bath House Cultural Center is (was?) an ideal venue for mid-size outdoor events. It has panoramic water and skyline views, 100-year-old shade trees, and restroom facilities. We're usually not the type to spread rumors, but we have it from numerous sources that new noise ordinances in the affluent Lakewood neighborhood have made things tough for organizers of events at White Rock. (Especially events of the hippie-Pagan-crunchy-granola variety.) If that's the case, then shame on Lakewood homeowners and their representatives. Central Dallas has few enough places of natural beauty--y'all should learn to share better!
The organizers followed up with the second annual DFW Pagan Pride Day at the Arlington Unitarian Universalist Church on September 27, 2014. (Just west of Dallas.) It was a delightful Saturday for the estimated 300+ attendees, with belly dancers, workshops, and lots of local artists peddling their wares. (Photos here.) But the organizers ran into (ahem, Lakewood) venue troubles and time constraints, and declined to put on a Pagan Pride Day for 2015.
Anyway, some friends of ours picked up the torch for 2015, and have organized the first annual DFW Pagan Unity Festival in the same location as last year's event (Arlington Unitarian Universalist Church). Again, a UU church is graciously hosting a bunch of crazy Pagans. (God bless them--if they're okay with that, I mean.) Lots of lovely, talented locals are on the schedule, and their magickal machinations have all-but guaranteed perfect weather. (It's not too late to get involved: Hit up the Facebook event page for details.) We're super-excited to be sponsoring and attending this event--photos to come.
When searching for info on Dallas Pagan Pride, I found a lot of people lamenting that there's not a Pagan Pride event scheduled in their area, or that organizers of a previous event have since stepped down. The reasons for this should be clear: Pagan festivals are a lot of work. A year or more of planning can go into a simple one-day shindig. There is a site to be secured and outfitted, local opposition to be overcome, and volunteers and performers to wrangle. (Not to imply that Pagans are especially flaky, but herding a bunch of independent, creative people is no small job.) There are also unforeseen expenses, and often the planners wind up covering these costs out of their own pockets.
So what can you do to help? Even if you're not up for joining a planning committee or leading a workshop, you can still pitch in. Once you've located an event you'd like to attend, the best next step is to contact the organizers and ask what they need. Donations of even small amounts of supplies, time, and money are welcome. (Don't over-commit yourself, though--unreliable help is worse than none at all.)
Everybody has talents and resources to lend: Could you design a flyer, or pass them out in your community? Are you a photographer or writer who can help promote the event, either before or after? Would you show up a couple of hours early to set up tents or AV? Could you help supervise children, tend a first-aid kit, or organize a carpool for attendees? (Arlington, known for years as the largest US city without public transit, now has a single bus route that goes nowhere. Hooray!)
If none of these things are possible for you, you can help just by attending and being your fabulously magickal Pagan self. Every person that shows up in good spirits contributes to the success of an event. Just be sure to find the sweaty, tired organizers and let them know you had a great time, and hope to see them again next year!
Updated again: We've been getting some inquiries about the 2017 DFW Pagan Unity Festival. Yes, it's happening on May 20! The current event page is here.
Photo: The Phallus of Dallas, a local Pagan fertility symbol.