Organizers of the two-year-old Gay8 celebration on Miami’s Calle Ocho on Tuesday cancelled the 2018 festival after city officials granted a permit to a competing event planned for the same date in January.
The festival, founded by a group of community volunteers led by Damian Pardo and Joe Cardona, had been held during the three-day Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend in 2016 and 2017. In its first year, Gay8 attracted 17,000 people and this January drew more than 30,000 attendees to Little Havana.
In June, according to emails from city officials cited by Gay8, the city of Miami’s Office of Film and Entertainment issued a permit to the local Univision affiliate to produce the annual Three Kings Day parade on Jan. 11.
A 48-year tradition in the Hispanic community that coincides with the Catholic feast of Epiphany, the parade has been held on a variety of weekends in January through the years, regardless of the official date of the feast.
Organizers of the “Gay Ocho” festival accuse city officials of ignoring the success of previous festivals and shunning the gay community.
Pardo argued in a telephone interview that city officials were aware of the planned date for Gay8 and made no effort to inform them of the parade date when Univision submitted its request. The city’s website, he pointed out, notes that all permit applications are “subject to internal approval.”
“What we’re protesting is that their internal process didn’t include us,” he said. The permit was awarded “without notice, without the courtesy of a phone call or a conversation. The solution is to bring people to the table and right now we have a table with empty seats. The city doesn’t seem to be interested.”
Diana Gonzalez, city communications director, responded, “The festival organizers did not submit a permit and have yet to submit a permit. The system at the city is first-come, first-served.”
Her colleague who oversees the process for the film and entertainment office, Vicente Betancourt, added, “It’s unfortunate they didn’t apply sooner. Historically, that weekend has always been very active.”
They pointed out that last year Univision submitted its request for the same date as Gay8, but were denied because Gay8 had filed first. The parade was held on another weekend.
Betancourt suggested that organizers consider holding Gay8 on Saturday, Jan. 13 and said the city would be willing to help resolve the situation as quickly as possible.
“We are supportive of the Three Kings parade and Univision has been a sponsor of our event,” said Pardo. “Our beef isn’t with them, it’s with the city.”
Requests from the local Univision affiliate to comment were not returned by press time.
“When you’re disregarded and disrespected and mistreated, you’re left with very few options,” said Cardona. “They forget the level of support we have with not only the LGBT community, but the merchants on the street.”
While they now refuse to consider another date, Pardo and Cardona have called for a boycott of special events in the city of Miami and will hold a press conference on Thursday, Aug. 11 at 11 a.m. at the Cubaocho Museum and Performing Arts Center, 1465 SW 8th St. in Miami. For more information, go to Gay8Festival.com.