Organizers of the two-year-old Gay8 LGBTQ street festival in Miami are declaring victory after meeting with city of Miami officials late last week.
Co-founders Damian Pardo and Joe Cardona abruptly canceled the 2018 festival in protest after learning the planned date on Sunday, Jan. 13 during the long Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend had been given to Univision for the traditional Three Kings’ Day Parade on Little Havana’s Calle Ocho. They also called for a boycott of future LGBTQ events in the city.
The organizers had assumed, because their event had been held on that weekend for the past two years, that their preferred date was understood by city officials, but the local Univision affiliate filed a request for that date first and was granted a permit.
“When we found out and created a stink, they said ‘first-come, first-served’. We followed every single rule known to us…never was it imaginable to us that we could lose our date,” said Pardo in a telephone interview.
Pardo insisted the city’s permitting rules were misleading and organizers should have been notified of Univision’s competing application.
“Once we heard there was a problem, we sent several urgent appeals and copied the mayor and the city manager. We heard nothing. During that time, we were losing grants and community support,” he added. “We built a coalition. We were not about to lose this festival,” which drew more than 30,000 people last year.
The organizers’ protests to the news media and on social media did eventually draw the attention of city officials, who met with Pardo and Cardona last week to identify a new date for the festival, Sunday, Feb. 18, during the President’s Day holiday weekend.
Ironically, that particular weekend had been Pardo and Cardona’s original choice for the festival three years ago, but was not made available by the city due to conflicts with the Coconut Grove Art Festival and the Miami International Boat Show.
“They gave us our original date and we took it because it’s a win-win-win all around,” said Pardo.
Gay8 organizers also insisted the city release a statement acknowledging the issues with the permitting process and include organizers in efforts to improve the system. At the meeting, Pardo said the city also reiterated its support for the local LGBTQ community.
“We didn’t want to belabor the error or the injustice. We wanted to highlight the problem,” he said. “We didn’t want to see another group go through what we did. Had we remained silent, there would be no festival in 2018.”
More information and a new promotional video for the event can be found at Gay8Festival.com.