Stonewall Organizers Aim to Boost Confidence in Festival

There’s no official theme for this year’s Stonewall festival and parade, but organizers have chosen an unofficial one: faith and financial stability.

“We’re not looking to do any radical changes or bring in some huge headliner. We want two solid years of the event running in the black with no major problems. We’re trying to rebuild faith with businesses. Show that the city is really making an effort,” said Jeff Sterling, chief executive officer of the Wilton Manors Entertainment Group [WMEG]. The WMEG is a group of residents and business owners working with the city to plan and execute the event.

Stonewall starts at 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 18 with a 6 p.m. start for the parade. It ends at 11 p.m. A family-themed event – bounce house, face painting, music and more – will be held at Hagen Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wilton Drive will be closed from Northeast 20 Street to Five Points from 5 a.m. on June 18 to 5 a.m. on June 19. Attendance is estimated to be about 25,000.

Like last year, entertainment will be paid for and provided by individual sponsors on their respective stages – five this year. “They control the entertainment, the lineup,” said Sterling. One of the additional stages is at the south end of Wilton Drive. Sterling hopes it will boost traffic there, a part of the street that historically hasn’t seen as many festival goers as the central and north parts. There will also be vendor booths set up along the street.

One thing that has changed is that the WMEG won’t be selling alcohol. Instead, Wilton Drive’s existing bars will pay a sponsorship fee. There’s nothing to stop bars from just selling from their premises, without contributing to the event, but Sterling said they’ve all volunteered to pay and be sponsors. “As of right now, we’re not selling alcohol in the streets. Let the people, who do this all the time, do it. This frees up a whole lot of time [for WMEG] to make the event better.”

It will also prevent the possibility of another theft. In 2011, when Pride South Florida ran Stonewall, Michael Cruz, former director of that group, was convicted of stealing $46,591 in money collected from alcohol sales. He served a one-year sentence for the crime. “This removes all that,” said Sterling.

Eventually, Sterling said he’d like to get rid of the food trucks and leave food sales exclusively to the restaurants on the street. “We’re looking to make the event almost run itself.”

“That is completely reasonable. They bring in a large vendor and the fee is covered. We had a full time person [last year] just trying to coordinate vendors. Stuff fell through the cracks. We’re bringing in professionals.”

For more information on parking, $15 at city-controlled lots during the event, and the rest of the event, visit WiltonManorsStonewall.com.

 


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