Pride in Polk: Conservative area PrideFest hopes to change hearts and minds

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Volunteers with Polk Pride. Photo: Polk Pride, Facebook.

It’s Pride Time in Polk County, with a full weekend of events planned from June 14 to June 17. The third annual gathering is happening in Lakeland, Florida, about 215 miles northwest of Fort Lauderdale. The events for Polk Pride include events for youth, events for people of all religious denominations, the pride festival and a pride closing party.

All of the event times and locations are as follows, and they are subject to change:

• Pride for Youth, June 14, 7 p.m., St David’s Episcopal Church

• Pride in Faith, June 15, 7 p.m., Beacon Hill Fellowship

• Fortune Feimster, June 16, 7p.m., Lkld TV

• Pride in the Park, June 17, 10 a.m., Munn Park

• Pride after Dark June 17, 9 p.m., Lkld TV

One of the weekend’s highlights is a performance by comedian Fortune Feimster. She’s the Southern comic who hails from North Carolina, most known for her work as a full-time performer and writer on E!’s hit show “Chelsea Lately,” and Hulu’s “The Mindy Project.” 

“If you’re a fan of hers, this is going to be a great opportunity to see her and a fun show,” said Polk Pride’s Dustin Shay. “Tickets are only $29.”

Saturday is Polk Pride in the Park. There will be entertainment, food trucks, vendors, community organizations and family-friendly activities. The event kicks off at 10 a.m. and offers something for the entire family. It is a free community event and opened to the public. 

“This is a family-friendly event,” said Shay. “I know a lot of the Pride events throughout Florida—in Tampa, Orlando, Miami—are very adult occasions. Ours is family-oriented. It’s a very different vibe for people who have children.” 

Polk Pride is an event dedicated to the awareness and acceptance of the LGBT community in Polk County, Florida. 

“Polk County is not exactly a metropolis,” Shay said. “We sometimes have to go to Tampa or Orlando for LGBT events and activities. Being an LGBT person in Lakeland as a human is great. I love our community, including our LGBT community. One of the things we’re trying to do with this Pride event is show the entire area there are things the LGBT community can do here without having to go to other cities. That’s one of the goals we’re trying to accomplish.”

Polk County is also a bit of a conservative area.  

“It’s probably a little more religious than other big Florida cities,” Shay said. “But we’ve actually received a lot of support for our LGBT events and community. Almost all the major cities in our county have issued Pride Proclamations for our week of pride, by vote of the city councils. We hope to get a proclamation from Polk County as well this year.” 

Polk Pride is hosted by a joint effort from the Lakeland Youth Alliance (LYA), and Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) of Polk County. 

For more information, visit www.PolkPrideFL.com/.