Organizers of the Wilton Manors Stonewall Parade & Festival estimate that the event will cost $250,000, but say they will raise what’s needed.
“We’re going to put it in the black again this year,” said Jeff Sterling, CEO of the Wilton Manors Entertainment Group [WMEG], at the April 25 commission meeting. WMEG is a private organization that works with the city to organize the event. Sterling said the city has contributed about $70,000 in in-kind donations, including not charging WMEG for permits. This is the third year WMEG has been in charge of the event.
This year’s event will be held on Saturday, June 17 along Wilton Drive. The event starts at 3 p.m. and the parade at 4 p.m. Parking will be $20 at City Hall, the Northeast 8 Terrace lot, Fort Lauderdale High School, the Municipal Complex, and Richardson Park.
There will be vendors and six food trucks. But Sterling said the goal next year is to let the restaurants handle the food. WMEG did something similar with the entertainment when it took over three years ago. Now, business owners along Wilton Drive can provide their own entertainment if they choose. Sterling said there would be four or five stages spread throughout Wilton Drive. “We’re not spending anything on entertainment.”
But sans food trucks is not the only change Sterling and organizers are planning on making for next year’s festival. Sterling said he wants to make Stonewall a multi-day festival and attract 50,000 people. “We need to find a way to get people to the event earlier. Not just [come] for the parade and bars.”
He also wants to do a better job of counting the crowd and determining how they plan on spending their money and where they plan on spending it. In partnership with the city, WMEG will be compiling that information, through a survey and aerial drone photographs. The goal is to use that information to get more sponsors and possibly more government grants and assistance from the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“I wish us all the best,” said Commissioner Tom Green.
Commissioners didn’t have a lot of questions during Sterling’s report. But one topic of high interest was the Mayor’s Gala, which will be held the Thursday night before Stonewall. The event includes food, refreshments and city and county officials.
Commissioner Julie Carson asked that the event be given another name that highlights the entire commission instead of just the mayor. “The City of Wilton Manors Stonewall Gala” was the name chosen.
Resident and activist Michael Rajner said the city should use the gala to reflect the meaning of Stonewall. He suggested a partnership with the Stonewall National Museum & Archives to set up an exhibit on Stonewall during the gala.
“Stonewall was about activism. It was a revolt. With the election, it certainly has a much more profound meaning for all of us,” Rajner said. “Show off your [pro-LGBT] policies.” He also suggested more diversity, particularly from the transgender community. “Reach out. I don’t recall even seeing a transgender person [at least year’s event].”
For more information on Stonewall, visit WiltonManorsStonewall.com.