Tens of thousands of people showed up on the beach for Pride Fort Lauderdale’s event on Sunday, exceeding expectations for the new venue. In fact so many showed up, the crowd threatened to overwhelm organizers – the bars ran out of liquor twice and shuttle service slowed to a crawl.
Despite those minor problems most people declared the event a tremendous success. The crowd ended up being the largest in the festival’s 40-year history.
“People really enjoyed the venue and the concept of what we went for,” said Miik Martorell, president of Pride Fort Lauderdale.
The annual LGBT celebration moved from its previous location in Holiday Park to the beach where vendors, organizations and entertainers gathered to show their rainbow colors. Because it was a free and non-ticketed event, crowd estimates were hard to figure. Organizer’s though believe more than 40,000 showed up.
The destination, Martorell said, drove the masses.
“The concept was to create an event that you can’t get anywhere in the world,” Martorell said.
“We have incredible beaches and amazing weather.”
Of the entertainers, Martorell said Erika Jayne out did herself.
“She performed like she really wanted to be here,” Martorell said.
Naturally, there were a few “hiccups,” Martorell said. Traffic was heavy slowing the shuttle service to a crawl. The bars, likewise, were overwhelmed by the throngs of people, dressed in beach wear and swim suits.
“We underestimated attendance,” Martorell admitted. “We ran out of liquor twice and we have to make the event easier to get to. No one likes sitting in traffic.”
Martorell said volunteers from nine different Pride organizations from across America assisted with the Fort Lauderdale production.
“That’s what Pride is about,” Martorell said. “Working together and being proud of who we are and where we come from.”
Other performers throughout the day included disco-era DJ Wendy Hunt, country singer Ty Herndon, “America’s Got Talent” finalist Brian Justin Crum and local transgender teen activist Jazz Jennings, star of TLC’s “I Am Jazz.”
Pride Fort Lauderdale did not take place in 2016 with the last festival being held in October of 2015, after several setbacks that delayed the event. This year the event returned to its traditional February schedule.
Organizers are already looking ahead.
“Next year will be bigger and even better,” Martorell said.