“There’s just a burst of color,” Christopher Loader, a London native visiting Miami said at the conclusion of this year’s Miami Beach Pride parade. “Everyone is super super happy, it’s a big wedding and everyone is getting married.”
There was plenty of love throughout the week’s pride festivities — and certainly plenty of color. Pride weekend in Miami Beach was jam packed with cultural events, concerts, shows and plenty of parties.
“I’ve never been here before, it’s a lot more fun than the other prides I’ve been to, it’s a lot more lively, more diverse, I’m definitely coming again,” Kimberly Guice, a med student visiting Miami before moving to Texas said at the Pride festival.
Founded ten years ago in 2009, the first festival and parade drew 15,000 spectators. Last year over 145,000 people were in attendance, and the festivities have grown to a global event with A-list celebrities such as last years’ Grand Marshal Gus Kenworthy, Betty Who, Bebe Rexha, Adam Lambert, Ross Mathews, Mario Lopez and more.
Judy and Dennis Shephard, parents of Matthew Shephard and founders of the Matthew Shephard foundation were this year’s Ally Grand Marshals. They are coming off the 20thanniversary of the murder of their son at the University of Wyoming. The Foundation works to erase hate crimes and foster understanding, compassion and acceptance in the LGBT community.
“We are thrilled and honored to be a part of Miami Beach Pride,” Jason Marsden, Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation said. “We hope that by representing our Foundation and reminding people of Matt, we can encourage both those affected by hate crimes and law enforcement to step up, connect, and do a better job for LGBTQ+ community of Miami Beach.”
This year’s Advocate Grand Marshal was Detective Juan F. Sanchez, and openly gay police officer and member of the Miami Beach Police Department since November 1987. In 2010 Sanchez was appointed to serve as the department’s LGBT Liason — a position he held until his retirement last month.
“I’ve been involved with Miami Beach Pride from year one, and it’s been incredible to see what it’s grown into,” Sanchez said. “The first year I was involved, I started by providing security for the event and never once did I think I would be a marshal for the parade. It’s very humbling and a huge honor.”
The Grand Marshals marched alongside more than 70 parade groups, 35 floats and over 3,000 participants. Local groups like Gay Vista Social Club and Equality Florida marched in the pride and corporations like T-Mobile and Starbucks showcased large floats and showered the crowd with branded rainbow swag.
“My favorite part about pride is the fact that you can be yourself,” said Jeff Perla, influencer behind The Travelin Bum Instagram said. “I feel like it’s a time where everybody can let loose and enjoy each other’s company and I think a lot of people don’t like to go to bars or clubs, but Pride brings the whole community together once a year and that’s really nice to see.”
On Pride grounds two stages were bridged by rows of tents where pride-goers could shop, learn, take pictures, get tested and buy drinks. This year’s festival had two VIP tents, one near either stage where a rotation of DJs, drag performances, competitions and talks kept the party going on both ends of the festival.
“I came to pride because I want to see people in their natural skins, I wanted to see what they were like when people weren’t just pressuring them to fit the norms,” Maria Sanchez, a Miami native said. “This is my first time to any pride, but it won’t be the last.”