Pride Fort Lauderdale drew thousands of attendees over the weekend looking to show their “pride” in many ways. The Broward LGBT festival, now in its second year, was expected to break an attendance record of 60,000 people over last year’s 40,000.
On Sunday, the last day of the three-day spectacle, festival goers were treated to performances by Spanish-American actress, comedian and flamenco guitarist Charo (famous for her guest appearances on the 70s and 80s TV show, “The Love Boat”) and Grammy award winner Estelle, known for her hits “American Boy” featuring Kanye West and “One Love” featuring David Guetta.
Miik Martorell, president of Pride Fort Lauderdale, said he was pleased with the turnout and is honored to be a part of the Pride legacy.
“It's truly my honor and pleasure to be a part of such a wonderful event,” Martorell said. “We really could not do any of this without support from the community.“
Running in conjunction with Pride Fort Lauderdale was the inaugural South Florida Trans Pride, which offered transgender people vendors and resources; a separate bar with proceeds benefiting the trans community; and meet-and-greet opportunities with trans celebrities and activists. Among them were “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alumna Carmen Carrera, guitarist Jaimie Wilson, author and actress Rajee Rajindra Narinesingh and trans model and singer Laith Ashley, who performed his singles “Can’t Wait” and “Before You Go.”
Charo took to the Pride stage twice as one of the promised headliners for “The Love Pride” themed event. Earlier in the day, she surprised the crowd with a rehearsal of sorts, where she performed two versions of her song, “Fantastico” — one on guitar, the other a techno remix. She later came back in the evening for the official performance.
“The song is very, very flamenco. It’s very sensual. It’s very cuchi cuchi,” Charo told the audience.
Throughout the day, DJs Deanne, Tracy Young, Power Infiniti, Guy DeGiacinto and Oscar G revved up the crowd from the main stage and the beach as hot, go-go boys danced in their underwear.
Deanne says her experience spinning at Pride Fort Lauderdale was “incredible.”
“I’m so thankful for being able to share my music with so many beautiful people,” Deanne said. “I wanted to hold true to the ‘Love Pride’ theme and bring nothing but love and fun to my set. I hope that I accomplished that.”
Estelle closed out the event Sunday evening, performing on the main stage. Weeks prior to the festival, the singer provided Pride organizers a strong statement in support of the LGBT community.
“It’s an honor to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community as we share this beautiful human experience with Pride,” Estelle said.
South Beach comic and drag icon Pussila — dressed in Japanese geisha attire —manned the VIP tent, introducing guests to Hiro Sake, one of the alcoholic sponsors of Pride Fort Lauderdale.
And there was plenty of alcohol flowing. Bartenders from Southern Nights Fort Lauderdale poured drinks for the VIP listers while outside on the beach in tented areas, paid cocktails were served by some of the more popular bars and gentlemen’s clubs of the Broward scene. Among them were Hunters Nightclub, LeBoy, Boardwalk and The Pub, which hosted the official Pride after-party at its venue in Wilton Manors with music, food and drink specials all night long.
In the mid-morning hours of Sunday as volunteers set up booths, stages and lights at Pride Fort Lauderdale, clothing vendor Steven Hannestad remarked about the festival’s spirit.
“When I was young Prides were the only place I could be myself,” said Hannestad, a grandfather and owner of We The People Clothing.
For 35 years, Hannestad has taken part in Pride celebrations. He sells rainbow colored tank tops, pins and apparel featuring bear designs and funny phrases such as “proud nasty woman.”
“It was 30 degrees when I left Dallas yesterday,” Hannestad said.
On this February day in South Florida it was anything but cold. As the sun rose over Fort Lauderdale Beach, tents like Hannestad’s provided a moment of shade. The uniqueness of being on the beach is a plus for a Pride celebration, Hannestad said.
But one of the highlights of this year was including the transgender community in such a prominent way.
“We feel extremely welcomed,” said Morgan Mayfaire, founder of TransSocial and a board member of Pride Fort Lauderdale. “The LGB community has opened their arms and welcomed us in. It’s been amazing.”
A few booths down from TransSocial were vendors representing the City of Wilton Manors Police Department and Chase Bank. Corporations were all over the beach on Sunday, claiming their support for the rainbow colored Pride organization.
Marissa Ellis and Courtney Baxter worked the Wawa booth. The young women from Deerfield Beach said they have been dating for three years.
“I haven’t stopped smiling since I’ve been here,” said Baxter, who was participating in her first Pride event. “It’s a very uplifting experience and it just puts a smile on my face to see everyone coming together.”
Other vendors of note included Sprint, Brightline, the Florida Panthers National Hockey League franchise, Perry Ellis, Miami Beach Mayor and Florida Gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, Fort Lauderdale Police Department, Florida Department of Health and Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The event was staged in the south end of Fort Lauderdale Beach Park. This year’s theme was “love.”
“I love my grandson, I love what I do for pride,” said Dawn Holloway, a board member of Pride Fort Lauderdale.
As with most large scale events on the beach, parking was a familiar complaint. To alleviate traffic concerns, shuttles – in the form of large coach buses -- departed hourly from Wilton Manors.
“The shuttle service from my perspective ran perfectly,” said Mitchell Grant, a Coconut Creek resident who arrived on the beach shortly after the gates opened to the general public at noon. “The bus was fabulous, clean and had a nice bathroom. It was much improved over last year.”