Miami Beach Gay Pride celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The festival’s milestone kicked into high gear Friday, Jan. 26, as Pride leaders, organizers and other supporters, including volunteers and sponsors, gathered for the annual Soiree by the Sea fundraiser and kickoff event at the Miami Marriott in Miami.
“NBC6 in the Mix’s” Roxanne Vargas, this year’s Ally Grand Marshal, served as hostess of the event while also celebrating a birthday at the soiree. The always cheerful local media personality was surprised with birthday cake by the Pride staff. She was joined on stage throughout the evening by co-host Grant Van Ulbrich of Celebrity Cruises; Dave Cook, executive director of Miami Beach Gay Pride; current Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and former mayor Matti Bower.
Reigning Miss Miami Beach Gay Pride 2017 Joanna James did a performance to Cher’s “Believe.” James relinquishes her crown to the next winner of the Miss Miami Beach Gay Pride drag pageant Monday, April 2, at the Faena Theater, 3201 Collins Ave., in Miami Beach.
Also at the soiree, the Pride team presented a $7,500 donation to The Point Foundation to support scholarships for LGBTQ students. The Point Foundation is the nation’s largest scholarship-granting organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students of merit. Point also provides mentorship, leadership development and community service training.
In 2017, Miami Beach Pride launched its new Angels program in association with the Point Foundation. Proceeds from the Angels memberships, ranging from $300 to $2,500, help LGBTQ students in Miami-Dade County and around the country achieve their full academic and leadership potential.
“The Angels program is what actually allows Miami Beach Gay Pride to actually still be free, one of the few opportunities that are still happening across North America,” Van Ulbrich said.
To become an Angel, Cook says “go to our web site, miamibeachgaypride.com, click on our Angels tab and you can sign up very easy. It will help support underprivileged children go to higher education.”
Added Vargas: “That’s what it’s all about. It’s about educating everyone in this world and this community. That’s where it starts.”
Vargas says being named an Ally Grand Marshal at this year’s Pride has meant a lot to her.
“Since day one, my husband and I have been nothing but loved and adored and welcomed with open arms by the LGBTQ community,” Vargas said. “To have been named an Ally Grand Marshal this year, it’s been such an incredible opportunity to have really smart conversations about the community and about getting more allies to come out and support and to understand what this means to the community and to just show up. Being here sends out the message that we are one and that we need to love each other and respect each other. We’re all just really great people making this world go round and we need to do that together.”
Since its inception in 2009, Miami Beach Gay Pride has grown from a neighborhood event to an event on the global stage with A-list celebrities such as Gloria Estefan, Mario Lopez and Elvis Duran serving as Grand Marshals and Adam Lambert and Jordin Sparks as headline entertainers. Attendance has grown from an estimated 15,000 spectators for the first Pride parade in 2009 to an estimated record of 135,000-plus revelers in 2017.
Last year's parade and festival featured a record-breaking number of parade entries, including 74 parade contingencies, 22 floats and more than 3,000 participants. Recently, Miami Beach Gay Pride was named one of the “Top 100 Events of the Year” for the third year in a row by BizBash Magazine and earned the Pink Flamingo Award as favorite multi-day event for the fourth year in a row. Miami Beach Gay Pride also earned Best LGBT event honors in the SFGN’s Best of 2017.
“It takes an army of dedicated volunteers and staff, the support of the City of Miami Beach and the help of all our sponsors to produce a Pride of this magnitude,” said Mark Fernandes, chair of the Miami Beach Gay Pride Board of Directors. “A special shout-out goes to our presenting sponsor Celebrity Cruises, who really helped us bring Pride to a new level last year.”
Richard Murry, marketing director for Pride, said the 2018 parade and festival will have a full week of events to celebrate the 10th anniversary.
So far confirmed: a rainbow flag raising ceremony over Miami Beach City Hall; the Miss Miami Beach Gay Pride Pageant; a Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce MegaMixer, which is a fundraiser for Pride; a VIP kick-off reception; beach party, parade and festival; and Pride Cruise.
"We will also be doing 'Pride Lights the Night,' where buildings throughout the county will light up in the rainbow flag colors. This event is done as a tribute and remembrance of the Pulse shooting victims and families," Murry said.
Dates for Miami Beach Gay Pride 2018 are April 2-8. For more information, visit www.miamibeachgaypride.com.