Victorian-style venue serves as sophisticated host of Alamo Colleges’ LGBT prom.
By Ashley Bailey
When Rene Orozco was president of this college’s Gay, Ally and Lesbian Alliance three years ago, he helped coordinate “The Spring Fling,” a celebration of unity in Loftin Student Center for the LGBT community.
This year Orozco returned to support the Rainbow Formal, the Alamo Colleges’ LGBTQIA prom March 24 at Koehler Cultural Center. The acronym stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual.
Orozco, now president of The Coalition at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, buzzed around Koehler in a violet button-down shirt and black three-piece suit.
GALA and members of the Palomino Alliance, Club Stand, Student Government Association and the office of student life at Palo Alto College coordinated the event.
“Just like GALA and the Palomino Alliance, our purpose is to educate, advocate and create a safe space for LGBTQ students on campus and educate those who don’t know about the LGBTQ community,” Orozco said of The Coalition.
Student organizations have hosted the event for the last five years, but usually change the name and keep the concept of spreading awareness and support for the community.
The prom, which took place from 6-11 p.m., was open to the public and included music, a drag show and punch and hors d’oeuvres. Attendees included students, professors and advisers. Admission was free for students of Alamo Colleges and their plus ones; other guests were charged $5.
Sam Sanchez, Rainbow Formal coordinator and president of the Palomino Alliance, wanted the event to be open to people from all walks of life.
“Why put up barriers when everybody’s the same? That’s the whole point of this event,” Sanchez said. “You’re going to meet people from all over with different backgrounds, but you’re still here having fun and enjoying your time with each other just the same as you would with anybody else.”
Sanchez and Nick Perreault, early childhood education sophomore at Palo Alto and member of the Palomino Alliance, worked the ticket booth and set up decorations on the porch of Koehler.
“We were fighting pretty hard to get this building because just the fact that it’s the Koehler House is legendary,” Sanchez said. “With SAC’s effort combined with our student life, we pretty much got the building for free as long as we followed certain guidelines.”
“We couldn’t use glitter for any of our decorations,” Perreault said.
Koehler has been standing since the late 1800s and was donated to the San Antonio Union Junior College District by Otto and Marcia Koehler, initially as an art center, according to this college’s website.
The Victorian-style mansion is made of stone and iron and is embellished by red, pink and white roses from the garden that grows next to it.
Now the mansion is used as a venue for social and educational functions for Alamo Colleges students as long as the building stays preserved.
Music was provided by Silva Sounds, a family-owned and operated DJ service that played a mix of genres to complement the night.
The dance floor was packed with more than 50 guests dancing to Rihanna, Madonna and Whitney Houston as light beams from the DJ set illuminated the chandelier like a disco ball.
Glow sticks and balloons waved through Koehler as guests moved their feet to mingle through the crowd.
A drag performance started at about 10 p.m., and drag queens Autumn Summers, Diana Del Rio and Michael Steward took over the floor.
Del Rio dazzled in silver stilettos and a rhinestone-crested cocktail dress as she moved through the crowd to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.”
Juan Salas, a police officer for the Alamo Colleges, was patrolling the 12,000 square- foot courtyard during the event to ensure Koehler stayed secure.
“They asked me to keep an eye on the doors since it is open to the public and to make sure everything stays in order,” he said.
An after party followed the prom at a local nightclub called Essence.
Summers performed Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain” and commenced with comedy for the rest of the evening.
Audience members — gay, straight, faculty, students — gathered around Summers, applauding, laughing and feeding off her positive and comical spirit.
Summers spoke into the mic and ended the night with an uplifting reminder for the LGBT community:
‘Don’t let anybody tell you what you can’t be.”