In the mid-morning hours 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.
More 60,000 people were predicted to attend the free festival on Sunday. Organizers erected two stages for talent, led by Grammy winner Estelle and television actress Charo of “Love Boat” fame. New this year was an area set aside for the transgender community.
“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.