The Pride celebrations in South Beach were not limited to 5th through 15th Streets — rainbow flags and pride-goers could be seen throughout Miami Beach over the course of the weekend.
This year marked the ten year anniversary of Pride in Miami, a feat that wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of then-mayor Matti Herrera Bower who advocated for the first Pride in 2009, as well as the countless other figures and organizations who help the celebration to run smoothly and grow with each passing year.
Bower was honored at the special media reception at TD Bank on Sunday, April 8. The current mayor presented keys to the city to the Grand and Ally Grand Marshals, out Olympian Gus Kenworthy and Roxanne Vargas, respectively.
Kenworthy and Vargas also took to the stage early Saturday for a Q&A, and Kenworthy shared his experiences as an Olympic athlete both in and out of the closet.
“My Olympic experience was infinitely better this time,” Kenworthy said. “I actually just got to be myself, which sounds dumb, but it was really a treat. In Sochi, I was in the closet, and I wanted to be out but I was too scared. Every interview I did I was kind of lying...I had a boyfriend but I just wasn’t talking about it. And every interview was like what type of girl do you like, who’s your celebrity crush, what’s your ideal date. It was just hard for me.”
He continued, “I was lying, and it caused tension between [my boyfriend] and I, and it just made me feel pretty low about myself. So to get to this Olympics and be like let’s talk about Zac Efron, let’s talk about Drag Race and Adam Rippon...I was finally able to be myself.”
An estimated 135,000 spectators were present at last year’s Pride — compared to 15,000 in the celebration’s 2009 debut. This year organizers estimate about 140,000 attended. The growth is certainly recognizable by the scope of the shows, the 120-plus tents and vendors as well as the guests that make Pride so special.
“We are proud to have delivered an epic, week-long experience in celebration of our 10th Anniversary,” said Bruce Horwich, vice chair of the Miami Beach Gay Pride Board. “The response to our events has been universally positive and enthusiastic and we want to thank the City, our sponsors, our vendors, and our volunteers for helping make all the magic happen. We don’t know how we’ll outdo ourselves for the next Pride, April 5 to 7, 2019.”
Big businesses and mom-and-pop shops were as much a part of the festival and parade as individuals, adorning floats alongside those of community organizations and setting up tents that lined the walkways of the Pride festival grounds.
The parade was a spectacle with 35 floats and an estimated 3,000 participants, but the festival grounds did not hold back in terms of decoration — pride flags, inflatable decor and elaborate costumes kept the grounds colorful and diverse.
The main draw of the festival was the Pride grounds’ dueling stages, which served the purpose of hosting talks, housing DJs and ensuring that people were dancing all day.
Seventies disco-queen Thelma Houston and 80s songstress Taylor Dayne performed Sunday night on the main stage, and Saturday night’s crowd were treated to a number of performances before headliner Betty Who took the stage with her backup dancers.
VIP galas and tents, all-night dance parties, family-friendly zones and of course the pride parade ensured that everyone would have a reason to enjoy Pride.
The efforts of the city were recognizable in all aspects of the festival — Miami’s commitment to its LGBT residents stretches from local businesses to the police force.
Jose Cassola also contributed to this report.
Following Pride a gay couple was called faggots and attacked. Police are searching for the suspects and have asked the public for help. Visit here for more information.