The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced Pride organizers to pull the plug this spring on local celebrations from Miami-Dade to Palm Beach, but they quickly united to offer the South Florida LGBT community an equally exciting virtual alternative.

Under the leadership of Miami Beach Pride, Gay 8 in Miami, Pride Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach Pride and Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride recently announced plans to broadcast a two-day festival via Facebook Live, Saturday and Sunday, May 9 10, as the South Florida Pride Collective.

Its amazing to see a community come together like this,said Rich Walczak, executive director of Miami Beach Pride. There was no hesitation from anyonewhen the concept was first proposed. Its been an amazing experience.

Leaders from each organization began meeting via video conference a month ago to plan the new event, and went to work signing local and international artists, drag performers and DJs, recruiting sponsors and hiring a multimedia production company, Jagers Technology. 

I have been stunned at the speed and efficiency with which we have been able to get so many moving parts together — talent, marketing, video production … it takes just as much work to put on a virtual festival as a live festival,” explained Compass LGBT community center’s Michael Riordan. Compass organizes the Palm Beach Pride held in Lake Worth in March. 

The show will offer live performances each day beginning at noon with the program transitioning to DJ sets at 8 p.m. until 2 a.m. 

The entertainment line-up includes a diverse and growing roster, including singers Cascada, Kristine W., Albita, Esera Tuaolo and Yoli Mayor; DJs Tracy Young, Ralphi Rosario and Hector Fonseca; and drag performers Miss Coco Peru, T.P. Lords, Velvet Lenore and Melissa St. John. Poseactress Dominique Jackson, “Queer Eyehost Carson Kressley and South Florida drag legends Kitty Meow and Tiffany Fantasia are among the all-star emcees who will host throughout the weekend.

The goals were for each organization to recruit the same talent they would use in their festivals,said Damian Pardo, co-founder of Gay 8, celebrated in February on Calle Ocho in Miamis Little Havana. By doing so, the virtual pride would organically reflect the diversity of our communities.

He also said the experience would introduce new talent and musical genres to audiences across the region and the world, thanks to the streaming format. 

Sponsors include Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey, AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Our Fund.

Donations will be accepted online and through text messages throughout the festival and proceeds will be divided evenly among the five organizations to benefit charities or individuals in their communities that have been affected by COVID-19. Miami Beachs Walczak pointed out that organizers know the needs of their community best. 

Beneficiaries range from Compass LGBT community center programs in Palm Beach County and Survivors Pathways, a Miami-based nonprofit serving residents with food insecurity, to individual grants for workers in the devastated hospitality and tourism industries in Miami and Wilton Manors. Pride Fort Lauderdale will use the funds to assemble and distribute boxes of food staples and personal hygiene supplies for people in their city.

Pride Fort Lauderdale president Miik Martorell, whose organization was scheduled to host the first Pride of the Americas festival in April, summed up the feelings of the organizers: 

Even though the pandemic may have forced us to postpone or cancel our events, we all came together to ensure that South Florida will have Pride in 2020 and show our community that, especially in times like these, we are stronger together,Martorell concluded. We like to say that Pride gives back and this is ultimately another way to positively impact our friends and neighbors during the crisis.

Watch the South Florida Virtual Pride, Saturday and Sunday, May 9 10 from noon 2 a.m., on Facebook Live at PrideCollectives. Tax-deductible donations are being accepted at or by texting SFLPRIDE to 44321. 

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In addition to serving as SFGN’s arts and entertainment editor, J.W. Arnold is also executive director of Pride Fort Lauderdale.