In just 11 years, Miami Beach Pride has grown into one of the most popular and anticipated events of the entire year in Miami and this year’s event, held April 1-7, will be no exception. The weeklong celebration is jam-packed with special events, social mixers, dance events, a VIP gala, and culminates with a two-day festival and parade.
Since its inception in 2009, Miami Beach Pride has expanded from a neighborhood party to an event worthy of a global stage, with A-list celebrities such as Gus Kenworthy, Betty Who, Ross Mathews, Bebe Rexha, Mario Lopez, Elvis Duran, Iggy Azalea, Jordin Sparks, Gloria Estefan and Adam Lambert.
Attendance has grown as well. An estimated 15,000 spectators turned out the first year. Last year an estimated 145,000 attended the event which featured more than 70 parade contingencies, 35 floats and 3,000 parade participants.
Starting at noon on April 7, the length of Ocean Drive along the Art Deco district will be closed to traffic and open wide for proud South Florida LGBT individuals and families, as well as allied friends, co-workers and families to participate in the 11thannual Miami Beach Pride Parade.
Ally marshals are Judy and Dennis Shepard, parents of Matthew Shepard and founders of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. The Shepards have been fighting for LGBT rights for 20 years since the brutal attack and murder of their son Matthew, then a University of Wyoming student. They have worked to bring attention to hate crimes and foster understanding, compassion, and acceptance for the LGBT community. Judy and Dennis were also instrumental in helping pioneer the first federal legislation against hate crimes, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
“We are incredibly honored to have Judy and Dennis Shepard be our Miami Beach Pride ally marshals this year, and to honor them for their unwavering support and tireless work in the LGBTQ community,” said Bruce Horwich, chairman of Miami Beach Pride. “Their dedication to increasing safety, visibility, and inclusiveness for the LGBTQ community has affected positive change and improved the lives of many LGBTQ youth.”
Joining the Shepards will be Detective Juan F. Sanchez as the advocate grand marshal. This honor recognizes Sanchez’s 31-year history of law enforcement and tireless support of the community. Sanchez began serving as a member of the Miami Beach Police Department in 1987. In 2010, Sanchez, an openly gay police officer, was appointed by then Chief of Police Noriega to serve as the department’s LGBT liaison, a position he held until his retirement last month.
In his position, Sanchez served as a key advisor to the current Chief of Police Dan Oates, and his staff on LGBT needs. Sanchez also worked with the Department of Justice to help develop a transgender training program which was rolled out to police departments across the U.S. to bridge the gap between the police and the transgender communities.
“I’ve been involved with Miami Beach Pride from year one, and it’s been incredible to see what it’s grown into. 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,” Sanchez said.
“Having a leader and advocate like Detective Juan Sanchez be a voice for our community is an honor, and it’s an important part of creating dialogue with the local institutions that keep our community and neighborhoods safe,” said Scott Bader, vice chairman of Miami Beach Pride.
In addition to the parade, the weekend’s festivities include a two-day festival on Saturday and Sunday at Lummus Park that features two stages with DJs, entertainers, and celebrity entertainers. The festival will feature 125 vendor booths, food and cocktails. The festival will also provide safe spaces at the Pridelines Youth District and “The Garden of Eve” women’s tent. BB&T is sponsoring a food pavilion.
Emily Estefan headlines the entertainment line-up. The daughter of music legends Emilio and Gloria Estefan, Emily has followed her own path since she first began performing on stage at 8 years old. Her musical career has spanned across several platforms that have included writing, producing and performing music. Her singing debut took place at the historic Hollywood Bowl in 2014 where she sang the classic “Where The Boys Are” with the LA Youth Orchestra. In 2015, she premiered her first original song and music video “F#ck To Be,” which celebrated individuality and the importance of not acquiescing to society’s expectations.
“I just want to tell my stories, put out good energy and love into the world, and not be afraid to be my true self in my music,” she said.
While Miami Beach Pride brings together members of the LGBT community, their friends, allies, and supporters in celebration of the unique spirit and culture of the LGBT community, in order to provide the safest environment, organizers are partnering with the City of Miami Beach and the Miami Beach Police Department and asking everyone to please refrain from bringing back packs and large bags, or to use a see-through bag. Organizers also suggest using mass transit or booking a parking space in advance.
For more information, or to volunteer, go to MiamiBeachPride.com.
Pride Lights the Night – A Tribute to Pulse
Buildings and structures throughout Miami will be lit with rainbow colors or fly rainbow flags in remembrance of the Pulse victims, their family and friends. The goal is to light buildings to show support and solidarity for the LGBT community. All venues with the ability to project LED light or digital projections on the exterior of their buildings or structures were requested to show rainbow colors or graphics on the nights of Apr 1-7. On Monday, April 1 a “Flip the Switch” event will be held, lighting up the 1111 parking garage in rainbow colors. A Pulse survivor will be part of a lighting ceremony on Lincoln Road.
Some of the hottest events are those held before and after the official parade and festival. Here are a few highlights.
PAMM Free Community Night on the waterfront terrace of the art museum, with live music, drink specials, drag, 7 - 11 p.m.
Pride VIP Gala at the Emanuel Luxury Venue in Miami Beach. With special guests Pride Marshals Judy and Dennis Shepard, retired Miami Beach Police Department Detective Juan Sanchez, and a host of surprises and VIP guests. Entertainment will be provided by Celebrity Cruises headliner Marcus Tyrell, international singing sensation Beth Sacks and a special appearance by Randolph Ward performing a vogue extravaganza! Open bar and passed hors d’oeuvres. Advance tickets: $100, $125 at the door.
Basement at the Edition Hotel It’s a nightclub, bowling alley and ice-skating rink. The most talked about party from last year’s Pride is back. Four international DJs: Anne Louise, De Felipe, Deejay Smeejay and Theresa will spin.
The Clevelander Pool Party on Ocean Dr., hosts a massive event from noon until 6 p.m.
ACTION! The Hangar hosts the official Miami Beach Gay Pride Official after-hours party, hosted by Enchantress Valeria Coutier, and her hot dancers!