Bradenton It was one small item quietly tucked into the Bradenton City Council’s Oct. 9 consent agenda, but would mean huge progress for the LGBT community in Manatee County.
With a unanimous vote and little fanfare, city council members, four Republicans and one Democrat, approved Manatee County’s first Pride festival.
“I did not think it was going to be this easy,” said Shannon Summers, Executive Director for Prism Youth Initiative, Inc. “I was scared half to death.”
Summers worked with Laura McKeithen, of Realize Bradenton, and the city’s Downtown Development Authority for four months to pick a date and get the item placed on the agenda.
The Manatee Pride Festival will be from Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 22 at the Riverwalk downtown. It will feature live music in the amphitheater, artists, speakers and vendors. Admission is free and sponsors are needed.
Manatee Pride will host the event to benefit the Prism Youth Initiative, Inc., an organization that offers support and education to LGBT young people ages 13 to 23. Organizers hope to bring 5,000 people to the festival.
“We need to pull, not yank, our LGBT community out of the closet,” Summers said. “We need to find out how many people we have here so we can get them involved.”
Summers hopes to top the 1,200 people who attended Port Charlotte’s inaugural Charlotte County Pride event earlier this year.
If experience is any indicator, the economic impact for Bradenton could potentially be big as the festival grows.
Events in two neighboring cities brought millions of dollars to area businesses. In its 11th year, St. Pete Pride, held in late June, drew 120,000 people to a parade and festival, despite a heavy downpour. Similarly, Orlando’s Come Out With Pride, in early October, boasted similarly large crowds.
“It feels fabulous,” Summers said. “When we went to Sarasota Pride and handed out flyers for Manatee Pride, people said they never would have believed we would come this far.”
Next year, Sarasota Pride will celebrate its 25th anniversary. Cities and counties around the state have found great success bringing people together for annual LGBT celebrations.
They include: Key West PrideFest, Miami Beach Gay Pride Festival, Pridefest South Florida in Fort Lauderdale, Space Coast Pride, River City Pride in Jacksonville, Tallahassee Pridefest and Pensacola Pride.
From our media partner WatermarkSusan Clary