“What an amazing weekend of love and gay pride!”

That’s how Paul Thomas, member of the Board of Directors at Miami Beach Pride, summed up the weekend-long festivities for this year’s Pride, which included exhibits, performances and the traditional parade down Ocean Drive on Sunday afternoon.

Miami Beach Pride is a multi-day celebration of arts and culture for the LGBT community, featuring special events, family-friendly activations, social mixers and world-class entertainment. 

Run this year from April 1-10, this was Miami Beach Pride’s 13-year anniversary, as it originally launched in April 2009. 

The inaugural Miami Beach Pride celebration took place with more than 15,000 spectators, far surpassing organizers’ expectations. Today, it is the leading LGBTQ+ cultural arts organization in South Florida, regularly attracting more than 170,000 attendees annually. 

“Pride is the best energy of the year,” said Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, who rode in Sunday’s parade with former Miami Beach Mayor and founder of Miami Beach Pride Matti Bower. “The colors, the music, the love and the perfect April weather make it one of my favorite events here on Miami Beach.” 

Added Kevin J. Clevenger, executive director at Pride Fort Lauderdale and former development director at SMART Ride: “Miami Beach Pride was a blast. I know it wasn’t easy putting an entire festival together in six months but [organizers] rocked it. I got to sell a few families their first Pride flag and I’m so happy I got to experience it. I can’t wait until next year.” 

Performers included international House artist Beth Sacks and local LGBT singer Robbie Elias, who has toured with Daddy Yankee. Elias performed Saturday night at the Celebrity Cruises stage and Sunday afternoon after the parade. On Saturday evening, Elias posted on Facebook: 

“I just want to say that I’m really proud that I’m gay and that I rocked that stage tonight. Also, I’m proud that I’m born and raised in Miami and that I was the only act playing with a live band and that I just performed at Miami Beach Pride and that when I was 18 I turned down a full scholarship to college and instead chose to follow my dreams. I’m thankful for all that because being on that stage tonight and sharing that energy with my community and my fans made every sacrifice worth it. I’m on cloud nine right now and never have I felt more sure of my path and purpose. Just, thank you.” 

Sacks, who has performed at Miami Beach Pride several times over the years, said she is “always blown away at the events and the hardworking team that plans many events over the course of months for a week’s worth of amazing concerts and parties.” 

“Wow, what an amazing weekend performing, not once, but twice for one of my favorite prides, Miami Beach Pride,” Sacks said. “I am always honored to be a part of Miami Beach Pride. I hold it near and dear to my heart. Thank you so much, Bruce Horwich, for having me back and to the amazing Miami Beach Pride team that works so hard taking the best care of every detail and of everyone. Much love!” 

This year’s Celebrity Grand Marshal was LGBT actor, model and YouTuber Max Emerson, who joked when he first got the message asking him to be a part of Miami Beach Pride, he thought he was being pranked. 

“I’m still waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out from behind the DJ booth or something,” laughs Emerson, who moved to Miami from Vero Beach, Florida at 18 years old and attended the University of Miami. 

Emerson said as a “closeted queer kid growing up in a place like Vero Beach, which some people call the redneck riviera, I’m fully aware of the systematic hate and shame that kept me in the closet. You don’t need any legislation for that. Of course, right now hate is law and we have a lot of work to do. So, thank you so much for having me as your Grand Marshal and for giving me this opportunity to fight this law and to help organize people to do everything they can to make sure we have equal protections and opportunities where we live, work and play. This is a massive overwhelming honor, but more than that it’s given me a huge sense of purpose and I’m really grateful for that.” 

Added Miami Beach Commissioner Alex Fernandez: “As we celebrate Miami Beach Pride, I want to recognize the openly gay city commissioners who have served and who continue to serve our community. I am honored to be the fourth openly gay commissioner in Miami Beach and grateful to the leaders who have paved the way, including my friends Michael Góngora, Victor Diaz and my colleague, Commissioner David Richardson. You are all trailblazers!” 

The Pride parade kicked off Sunday with a special reception at the Wolfsonian. Throughout the day, spectators and attendees could visit the Legacy Couples exhibit at the Art Deco Welcome Center and the Trans tent at Lummus Park, featuring Borinquen Medical Center and Survivors Pathway, local organizations that provide services for the transgender community. 

“The trans tent at Miami Beach Pride was an important part of the weekend for our local trans community,” said Joval Valdivia, an outreach specialist for Borinquen. “At Borinquen and Survivors Pathway, we offer many services to the LGBTQ community — mental, medical, case management and much more.” 

Vanessa Monroe, a transgender woman and regular performer at Nathan’s Bar, said manning the trans tent with fellow trans performers like Fantasia Royale of Palace Bar was a “fabulous experience.” 

“The T tent is a safe space for trans people, where everyone was welcomed,” Monroe said. “I met many wonderful people from the LGBTQ community. Having Borinquen and Survivors Pathways there was a pleasure. They are great organizations with great programs offering help for all your needs, from substance abuse to mental health to lawyers and many more services.” 

Fay Albernas, host of “The Fay What? Show” and Queer News Tonight, broadcast live on Facebook during the parade. 

“I was beyond excited broadcasting from iconic Ocean Drive with thousands of LGBTQIA folks and those who love and support us,” Albernas said. “Thank you, allies. We will not be silenced. Happy Miami Beach Pride!” 

Nathan’s Bar hosted the Pride after-party and T-dance, featuring Wizard of Oz-themed performances from drag artists Dasha Sweetwaters, Nelly Norell, Regina Cocoa Lords, Brianna Bawdyy Kane and burlesque performer Sofia Luna. The theme of Miami Beach Pride this year was “there’s no place like home.” 

Nathan Paul Smith, the owner of Nathan’s Bar, gives a platform to mostly trans performers like Regina Cocoa all year round. This year for Trans Visibility Day on March 31, Cocoa marked the occasion by posting on Facebook about her experience as a transgender woman. 

“I choose to be out and visible every day of my life but today I celebrate with the rest of my trans fam,” wrote Cocoa on Facebook on March 31. “As trans people, we are very frequently told we should not exist, we are looked at like freaks, we are discriminated against, etc. Laverne Cox once said ‘it is revolutionary for a trans person to choose to be seen and heard in a world that tells us we should not exist.’ Visibility is so important. Through being visible, we show the world we are here, we are normal, we are beautiful, we are present, and we aren’t going anywhere.” 

Cocoa concluded her post by asking allies to take the time to celebrate a trans person.

“If you are or ever have been attracted to a trans person, rock that shit with pride,” Cocoa said. “If you have a loved one that’s trans, celebrate them. If you’re a fellow trans person, rock your identity loudly, just as long as you don’t put yourself in danger. Be visible. We are here.”

Courtesy of Miami Gay News.