History was made Saturday when the first Pride Parade traversed a downtown route stepped off so many times over so many years by others.
But despite the rainbow colors, it wasn't entirely pretty.
While parades nationally go back more than 50 years, the first planned in Abilene was scheduled for September 2021. However, an uptick in COVID cases locally led to organizers postponing the inaugural event until this year.
Shirts read "Silence = Death," "We are all human," "Equal-ity" and "Be You Tiful."
Many were seen in rainbow leggings or wearing tutus. And that included pets.
Protesters use bullhorn
The pageantry of the 20-minute or so parade contrasted with a four-man protest outside the federal courthouse on Pine Street. Cheering parade attendees and those in the parade vehicles attempted to drown out a man on a bullhorn, but his message was loud and clear.
"Gay pride will get you fried," he said through the bullhorn. "Don't drop any soap out here.
"God hates gay pride."
The group cut in front of those leading the parade carrying U.S., Texas, rainbow and Abilene Pride flags. Police on motorcycles circled but allowed the interaction.
"God made you male and female, and you can't change that," he bullhorned.
Watching the parade pass by, the man who with bullhorn blared, "This a freak show going on in Abilene, Texas. How do you bring your children out here and expose them to this perversion?"
The foursome broke off at the post office to continue their protest on the sidewalk.
The back of his red T-shirt read, "Homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God." The front of another protester's shirt read, "Hey homo (stop sign) grooming our kids."
A woman carrying her end of a rainbow flag came over to their place on the sidewalk, saying, "We love you."
"You don't love us," the man with the bullhorn responded.
"God hates your Pride parade," he shouted.
Counter chants of "All love, no hate" began.
The man with the bullhorn said that the foursome was not from Abilene.
"We're from all over," he said, saying the quartet would go to Nelson Park to continue their protest. Signage noted officialstreetpreachers.com. Abilene police officers instructed them to stay in a cordoned area there.
A man supporting the parade stood at the protester's ear, chanting, "Shut the f--- up!" There was minor bumping of the two, and police quickly put a stop to that.
A sign held by one protester stated "Fear Honor Obey Love God."
Another read "Homo sex is sin."
When a trio holding a banner from Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest passed, the man with bullhorn announced, "Here come the fake Christians, bringing up the rear of gay pride."
A parade participant addressed the man, asking, "Doesn't Jesus say love your neighbor?"
The man answered, "Yes, he does; but not homosexuals."
But it otherwise was a happy occasion
Though June is Pride month, some here said a summer parade was going to be avoided due to the heat. And it was hot in June.
However, the afternoon temperature Saturday was in the 90s on the third day of fall. But that didn't seem to have an effect. Some brought coolers filled with iced water; others bought iced drinks downtown.
Sidewalks on Pine and Cypress streets were filled, though many chose shade. A sizeable gathering was at Minter Park.
There, a 10-year-old Austin Elementary student who said her name was Jewels was dressed almost head to toe in rainbow colors, including a tutu and wig.
"I want to be a model," she said, adding she was there to support her parents.
Her father was nearby, her mother down the street. He's from Abilene while she is from Breckenridge.
"We're excited by this. This is a very good thing for Abilene," dad said before the parade began, identifying himself as a trans man, non-binary and bisexual. He planned to attend the parade last year. This was his second, having been to one in Beaverton, Ore.
Another parade attendee was Corrie Wolfe, who operates Howlin' Wolf, a local tie-dye business.
"This is my everyday outfit," she said, laughing at her mix of rainbow colors. Her dog, Watson, was with her. His birthday, called "barkday," was to be celebrated later at Play Faire Park.
Following the parade, the Pride focus shifted to Nelson Park, where a variety of events were planned at the Festival Gardens and Abilene Zoo visits were encouraged.
This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Colorful outfits, colorful language color 1st Pride Parade in Abilene