Compass, the largest LGBT community center in the Southeast U.S. and fifth largest in the country, is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year and they’re making sure to keep Palm Beach County’s LGBT community active.
As CEO of Compass, Tony Plakas’ proudest moments of the last year include overseeing the first Florida production of a staged reading of a Prop 8 play about the California court case and decision.
Next on the list for Plakas and Compass is launching into PrideFest in the middle of the season. This year’s theme is: United Colors of Pride.
“It’s a very unique pride because it’s right there on the water, overlooking the intercoastal waterway,” Plakas says. “It’s kind of got a small hometown type feel.”
It started with the raising of a rainbow-striped flag outside the Lake Worth City Hall Tuesday March 19. Over the upcoming weekend PrideFest, more than 140 local businesses are sponsoring the event and advertising their food, jewelry, and art alongside non-profit organizations.
Gioia Bruno from Expose is headlining this year’s Pridefest. “We wanted to try to find kind of a 80s retro headliner to make it more fun,” Plakas said. Other performers include Michaela Paige from NBC’s The Voice, Teri Catlin, Tony Cruz, the Static Attraction Board, Voices of Pride, and No Angle.
One of the yearly highlights is always the festival’s pride parade, which takes place Sunday at 11:30 a.m., on South L Street in downtown Lake Worth and continues down Lucerne Avenue and Lake Avenue into Bryant Park. The historic Wells Fargo stagecoach that has led the pride parade for the last two years returns to lead it for a third. Melissa St. John, the Parade Grand Marshal, will be riding it.
“The parade is always very awesome,” Plakas said.
This is the only stop the stagecoach makes in Florida, but it also appears in pride parades in New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco, according to Compass Communications Coordinator, Ana Lucia Zagazeta.
Plakas considers it a privilege and a symbol of the community’s recovery from the recession of the late 2000s.
“What’s kind of exciting is, for a while there, people really saw a hit to the economy,” Plakas said. “Some people, vendors, that wanted to … support our community center were having a rough time and weren’t able to participate in past years.”
This year? Plakas is struggling to find space for vendors, sponsors and supporters.
“The great thing about our PrideFest is that we’re such an integrated community, that you just get a lot of familiar faces. We always kind of come out of the event charged up and wired.”
Although Compass was formed in the 1980s, Plakas remembers when the “fault line of social justice” moved from Miami-Dade County in the 1990s, to Broward County in the 2000s, and says it now lies in Palm Beach County.
“We’re on the fault line of social justice,” Plakas said about Palm Beach County. “Once you start going north of here … you start getting into a very rural area of Florida that, isn’t very friendly to our community.”
While Plakas hopes the fault line keeps moving north as more cities in his county add equal protections and benefits for their LGBT communities, he is not sure it will. He is, of course, certain of one thing.
“There is an absolute, undeniable will to see this community succeed.”
IF YOU GOWHAT: 20th annual Pridefest of Palm Beaches
WHEN: Saturday March 23 & Sunday, March 24
WHERE: Bryant Park, Lake Worth Florida,WHAT: Pride Parade
WHEN: Sunday March 24, 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
WHERE: Starts at South L Street, ends at Bryant ParkAdvanced tickets are available. Call 561-533-9699 or visit Compassglcc.com