If you go to the second annual Hialeah Pride on Oct. 13, you’ll likely notice an expansion of partners, entertainers and features – and fellow attendees.

Last year, almost 6,000 people showed up for the inaugural event at historic Hialeah Park. Organizers said the numbers could be double that this year.

“We really have focused on it as a true community event versus a destination Pride or block party,” cofounder Karen Larrea said.

More than a few eyebrows were raised when it was announced in 2018 that a Pride event would be held in Hialeah – the city known as one of the most conservative in Miami-Dade, if not much of Florida.

While perhaps not a likely choice, part of the answer lies with cofounder Madeline Fernandez, who is also known as DJ Citizen Jane, one of the most in-demand DJs in the LGBT community across the country and internationally.

Hialeah is where she spent her youth. She occasionally hangs out there and her father still calls it home.

“I don’t want people to go through what I did – to have to move to a new city and create a new life somewhere else,” Fernandez said.

She said because of her tomboyish looks – short hair, boy clothes – she was often teased, bullied, and felt like an outcast. 

After seeing the gay areas of Miami Beach she began to feel more herself and came out at 19. She started her DJ career there at 21 and it’s her home today. 

The idea for a Pride in Hialeah wasn’t simply meant to provoke, but to make inroads and to “change the mentality” there, Fernandez said.

Ally formation

Some of the changes at this year’s event might seem small, but the pair said they are actually big and required a lot of outreach and persistence.

The Hialeah Police Department will have a presence at the event for the first time. There will be select officers who will show support by wearing rainbow patches on their uniforms.

Larrea and Fernandez have also formed an alliance with Hialeah Hospital’s CEO Michael Bell.

Bell was at a recent launch party for the 2019 event. He is directing the hospital to fly a rainbow flag on the day of Hialeah Pride.

“He said we are one human family and the hospital should not discriminate,” Larrea said.

The sentiment goes well with this year’s theme: “One Love.

Hialeah mayor Carlos Hernandez was at last year’s event and is expected this year as well.

Something for everyone

Hialeah Pride offers options to a wide variety of Pride-goers to say the least. 

Last year there were 15 featured performers and this year there will be 17. 

The headliner is Latino heartthrob Julio Iglesias Jr. This year’s “padrino,” a kind of grand marshal for the event, is producer and Grammy award winner Desmond Child. 

A full list of performers can be found at hialeahpride.com.

Attendees can again experience different “zones” at the event – health, food truck, vendor, family, kidfest, senior and youth space.

The health zone offers HIV testing, blood glucose testing, blood pressure testing and an opportunity to connect with various medical professionals and groups. 

The senior zone with a perched up view will feature the Lambda Living Program for LGBT seniors and AARP. There will be domino tables and other activities, too. 

The youth space zone is new this year and will be hosted by Miami’s Alliance for GLBTQ Youth.

The Alliance will be awarded a college scholarship to be granted through the Hialeah Pride nonprofit Future Bright Minds.  

The program awards scholarships to low income high school LGBTQI+ seniors in the Miami-Dade and Broward County public school systems. 

Last year the first scholarship went to Rakia Walker from Barbara Goleman Senior High School.

The youth zone is geared to those between 12 and 20 years old – what Larrea describes as a “Pride within a Pride.”

Hernandez said it was particularly important to her to boost the youth options. 

“The youth in our community is our future; they will remember the Pride that invested in them,” she said.

‘Labor of love’

One of the winners during last year’s raffle was a man from Orlando. He came to the event with his wife and their transgender daughter who is attending Florida Atlantic University’s Jupiter campus.

Larrea later met the man at her home in Miami Beach because he around when his name was called for the raffle.

Larrea learned that he and his wife had wanted to understand their 18-year-old daughter better and to show their support. He’d found Hialeah Pride during an online search and rounded everyone up to attend. 

It was the first Pride event for all of them.

“He said they’d had an amazing day and wonderful time with their daughter,” Larrea said. 

The raffle prize turned out to be significant, too – a domino table.

Larrea said the father told her that it just so happened that dominos was a previous activity the family used to do together.

“He said the domino table now represents what that day meant to them,” Larrea said. “It makes all the 16 hour days and the back and forth worth it to us. It’s a labor of love to give back to the community.”

There’s more

This year’s event will feature what Larrea and Hernandez think is the first same sex wedding at a Pride event in South Florida. Miami-Dade Judge David Young is scheduled to officiate. 

The couple was given the opportunity through an essay contest.

They will also receive a three-night honeymoon in Key West at Alexanders Guesthouse and wedding bands.

The ceremony will be streamed live on It’s Happening OUT.

Look ahead

Larrea and Hernandez have three goals for future Hialeah Pride events.

One is to hold a Pride parade down 49th Street – the “main” artery of the city. 

The second is to have the city approve a rainbow crosswalk.

Goal No. 3 is to have the city approve a Pride flag to be flown in front of city hall on the day of Hialeah Pride.

This year’s event will run two hours later than last year – from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Historic Hialeah Park is located at 2200 East 4th Ave.

General admission is free. Limited VIP tickets and more information is available at hialeahpride.com.