Colton Trout and Shannan Peterson said they wanted to provide the community with a safe, fun alternative to traveling to Galveston or Houston for Pride festivities in 2021, especially since COVID-19 restrictions may continue to hamper plans in larger cities. The duo put together this year’s celebration, Pride in Paradise, which ran the week of June 7, in a matter of weeks but hope to use it as a starting point for Pride events in future years.
“We kind of came together and were like, ‘Nobody’s doing anything around here.’ We are just adding to Pride with our own Paradise twist,” said Trout, who owns Paradise Tropical Wines in Kemah.
Events throughout the week included live music, drag queen bingo, family-friendly drag shows and themed nights at popular Kemah entertainment venues. Many, although not all, events were free to enter and had no age restrictions.
A second Pride in Paradise drag show was added for the evening of June 11 after the first sold out, per the Pride Kemah Facebook page; both were open to all ages.
“Pride is for everyone to celebrate the progress being made,” Trout said.
These events were meant to boost local businesses while providing expressive outlets for the area’s queer youth and helping them feel
validated—something Trout and Peterson are passionate about. A League City mother reached out to Peterson in tears, thankful her 15-year-old child will have an outlet this Pride Month, Peterson said.
“I saw a need for bringing Pride to suburbia,” she said.
A Pride celebration, and any event throughout the year that centers and affirms LGBTQ people in general, can and often will look different in a suburban area such as Kemah compared to in a big city, Peterson said. Pride Month is celebrated in June to honor the June 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, which were a series of spontaneous demonstrations by members of the LGBTQ community that happened in response to a police raid.
Pride Month festivities today can vary widely, and some can involve demonstrations that center around sexuality or involve sexualized features. Peterson and Trout said they received backlash from various community members around the appropriateness of the 2021 Pride events—both in terms of them being too family friendly to be authentic and not family friendly enough to be desirable.
Still, numerous local businesses got involved throughout the week, including Cool Cow Creamery, where visitors could purchase a limited edition Loud and Proud ice cream flavor. Kemah’s city government expressed an interest in being involved for next year’s celebrations, Peterson said.
She and Trout hope to expand event offerings in the future to include a market or a golf cart parade—the latter of which is a Bay Area staple. Trout also hopes to host LGBTQ nights at his businesses, especially now that Paradise is reopened with extended Wednesday and Thursday evening hours, he said.
The incorporation of LGBTQ-affirming events in the community can help change Kemah’s reputation for the better, Peterson said.
“It’s a whole new generation of Kemah,” she said.