Working the Highland Lakes Equality Center table at the 2021 Equality Festival in Marble Falls are HLEC Events Coordinator Sara Limon (left) of Sunrise Beach Village, Becca Schafer, and Becca's daughter, Isabelle Schafer of Austin. Courtesy photo
Based on the success of its first festival in June 2021, the Highland Lakes Equality Center plans to celebrate Pride Month once again with even more events, including an evening drag show for ages 18 and older.
The group plans family-friendly activities for its second annual Highland Lakes Equality Fest, which is from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, June 18, in Johnson Park, 230 Avenue J in Marble Falls. Admission is free. Pride After Dark, a drag show for ages 18 and older, is from 8-10 p.m. at the Hill Country Community Theatre, 4003 FM 2147 West in Cottonwood Shores. Tickets are $15. Purchase them online or at the theater.
“We knew last year that we would be doing this again,” said Sara Limon, HLEC events coordinator. “It was our first major event that we opened up 100 percent to the public, and we had such an amazing and loving response the entire day. We experienced so much support and community in that one setting for the eight hours we were there. It was humbling.”
During the free portion of the day, the amphitheater stage will host live musical performances, poetry readings, and art demonstrations. Three food trucks and Dee’s Snow Cones will be on site along with a variety of vendors.
“The vendors are selling things, but enjoying the sense of community is 100 percent free,” Limon said.
Booths with information about the Equality Center and its services also will be available.
It’s a long list of services, including education, finding medical assistance, helping pay for therapy, and just providing basic support and understanding. A long-term goal for the organization is to have a physical space where people can connect and seek help.
“(HLEC has) made all the difference in my life,” said Jaseynth “Jaz” d’Colton of Marble Falls. “If it hadn’t been for them, I don’t know what kind of state I would be in.”
D’Colton found herself homeless after a breakup with her partner. It was Christmas and she had nowhere to go. The HLEC representative who answered her call agreed to give her a ride to Austin, where she was planning to spend the night in Zilker Park. First, however, the driver suggested they stop by the group’s annual Christmas party.
“There was someone there who had a spare bedroom because their roommate had just left,” d’Colton said. “It worked out pretty well. Just knowing HLEC existed was a lifesaver for me.”
The Highland Lakes Equality Center has since helped with therapy for d’Colton, which she said literally saved her life. Equally as important, she added, are the social events, which bring the community together for mutual support and friendship.
“It gives a social life to a lot of us who are isolated out in small rural areas,” she continued.
Social events include weekly group gatherings, monthly socials, and holiday parties. Rae’s Bar and Grill in Marble Falls and Angel’s Icehouse in Spicewood both hold Equality Night socials.
“I have one sibling who accepts me but lives very far away,” d’Colton said. “I have no one to celebrate the holidays with, but HLEC does a Friends-giving, a New Year’s party. I have somewhere to go.”
Both Limon and d’Colton agree that the Highland Lakes community has been accepting and supportive. When someone is not so nice, it is usually from “behind a keyboard,” said d’Colton, referring to harsh comments on social media.
“People are generally nice in the area,” she said. “We had several hundred people from this town showing up for the Equality Fest last year, and there were no negative altercations. We have been able to diplomatically talk to the community and gain acceptance rather than have a war of butting heads.”
Celebrating Pride Month for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning community in the Highland Lakes has caused very little pushback, Limon said.
“I feel very strongly that it’s not been as severe as in other places,” she said. “We have been fortunate in that regard. Even on social media, where it is easier to say mean and hateful things, even that has been mild compared to other areas.”
“We know there is a big community out there who don’t think their voices were being heard,” Limon said. “There was no one saying, ‘I know what you’ve been through and I know and support you,’ until the HLEC came along.”