An event designed to showcase Broward County as a premiere LGBT destination is facing challenges from almost every side. 

Pride of the Americas (POTA) is less than 45 days away and is dealing with a last-minute change of location, resignations, and a rapidly shrinking program of events.

Documents obtained by SFGN show the event, which is run by Pride Fort Lauderdale (Pride) and replaces the usual Pride Fort Lauderdale event this year, has been woefully behind schedule for months. The deteriorating situation began reaching critical mass Dec. 19.

Minutes from Pride’s board meeting that day address issues that should have been addressed months ago, including the lack of a site map detailing a layout for stages, vendors, bars, and more.

Built On Pillars of Sand

Even if they had a site map, it would have been rendered obsolete just days later. The original plan was to have POTA at the south end of Fort Lauderdale Beach, where previous Prides and other major events, such as the Tortuga Music Festival, have been held.

But that location came with logistical and financial problems. Sources have told SFGN that the venue is too expensive for Pride. Additionally, the NHL is doing a major activation in the space prior to Pride.

Minutes from the Dec. 19 meeting indicate Pride hoped to simplify the transition between the two events by working with the NHL and getting them to use Pride’s vendors for flooring and other infrastructure.

There were also concerns about access to vendors/booths during POTA. “...several have raised a concern about moving more vendors to the beach. Even with flooring installed we could find that a lot of vendors are upset by this as it will not be an easy setup for them and if the weather is bad even with flooring it’s going to be an awful experience for them which could hurt us in the future.”

Just days before Christmas, multiple sources say the City of Fort Lauderdale stepped in and offered Las Olas Intracoastal Promenade Park as a site, free of charge. Sources tell SFGN that Pride voted to accept the offer Dec. 27.

There are also negotiations with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department to provide their services for free or at a reduced rate. Pride Executive Director Kevin Clevenger told SFGN that security costs for large events are increasing due to threats by anti-LGBT organizations.

Insanely Behind Schedule

Changing location at what is, effectively, the last minute, is a heavy lift.

A memo from a contractor, circulated among Pride organizers Nov. 2, 2022, details the difficulties. “As someone who's helped design, build and activate festivals around the country for nearly 12 years now, I'm very concerned that you all are three months out and still basically trying to figure out what materials we need to build this.”

The memo goes on, saying, “To not have a working / codified map at this point is insane. Right now if someone buys an exhibitor space, you can't even tell them where they are going to be so they can plan accordingly. It also troubles me that I don't see a ton of previous experience related to planning/building and activating something of this scale from the board.”

This was about 100 days before POTA and when the location was still set for the beach.

The memo from Nov. 2 and the minutes from the Dec. 19 board meeting were provided by a person involved in the planning. This is the only source giving SFGN the documents. Much of the information has been confirmed by a second source but the documents remain the sole source for some direct quotes.

“Petty and Personal Grudges”

In the same Nov. 2 memo, the contractor openly accuses the board of ignoring the experienced people they hired to help.

“You have staff/contractors who've done this with more experience than everyone on the board and executive level combined and yet you all don't utilize or include us on anything related to getting this monster off the ground. That is not a smart use of assets and experience.”

The contractor went on to call out Pride’s internal politics and issue an ominous warning.

“Some people need to let go of their petty personal grudges and start communicating with those of us who have the knowledge and experience because at the end of the day, if this festival comes off as a bomb, it's the organization that will look bad, not the contractors hired to actually help when asked.”

The Nov. 2 memo continues to expose a lack of even basic planning skills on the part of Pride. “[The layout] seems very disconnected. It's almost as if you are just trying to make it look bigger but actually just making more empty space.”

A proposed Community Stage is called a waste of space and money. Food court and booth space were so close to the main stage that vendors would have to yell at their customers, and bar space was ill-conceived.

The assessment even feels the need to point out the obvious: sand.

“...you also will need to have tons of flooring down for vendors to set up on, unless you intend for them to have their tables, chairs and assets sink in the sand 4-6 inches. Even the sand where the Transpride tent was last year was difficult and that wasn't even very far out from the beach access/entrance point.”

Short & Not-So-Sweet

The event’s footprint isn’t the only thing shrinking. Originally billed as a three-day party, the list of activities is getting shorter and shorter. Feb. 11, 2023, is currently the only day scheduled to happen near the beach.

According to the minutes from Pride’s Dec. 19 board meeting, costs are at least partially to blame.

“I got the sense that maybe a parade and definitely a 5K race should be scraped [sic] from the plans. Due to the traffic it causes, previous complaints from the beach alliance, impact to others and nearby hotels and the cost for police it seems like they were suggesting that the race should be scrapped. It seems like they would be more receptive to a parade but again warned on the possible added costs.”

Multiple people have told SFGN that the parade down A1A will still take place at noon on Feb. 11. The festival itself will run from 2-10 p.m. Pride has also confirmed to SFGN that Boy George will still perform as the headlining act.

As for Feb. 10, Pride On the Drive is set to be held in the parking lot of Shoppes of Wilton Manors, outside Georgie’s Alibi Monkey Bar and Hunter’s Nightclub. There are no concrete plans for any Sunday activities, but efforts to hold a pool party, somewhere, are underway.

Turmoil At the Top

During the week of Dec. 19, Clevenger was telling people that he is resigning, effective March 3. He wants to stay on so sponsors will know who they’re dealing with and not be worried about dramatic, last-minute changes. Sources say he later offered to resign effective immediately, but the board asked him to stay on until March.

Also leaving is Shawn Palacious, aka Kitty Meow, who served as Pride’s Entertainment Director. He told SFGN he’s leaving over health issues, and is no longer listed as part of the leadership team on Pride’s website.

Three Year Delay

POTA was originally supposed to happen in April 2020. COVID forced it to be rescheduled for years until health and travel safety protocols could be matched. Through it all, Visit Lauderdale’s support has been front and center.

They, along with other sponsors, have helped shepherd the event this far. One source tells us Visit Lauderdale was a part of the pre-Christmas meeting with Pride and Fort Lauderdale and was instrumental in helping keep the event alive.

Other sponsors have invested tens of thousands of dollars in POTA. The minutes from the Dec. 19 meeting show extensive cost-cutting has taken place.

They state “[Pride President] Miik [Martorell] created a simulated budget with cuts and was able to reduce the [budget] by $176,664.27 to $770,935.73. After payments already made of $89,328.74 our new total will be $681,606.99.”

SFGN reached out to Martorell but he did not respond.

Despite the cuts, the minutes show Pride still expects to lose $21,000.

Encouragingly, the minutes say the food court has sold out and three dozen vendors are confirmed.

SFGN reached out to other members of Pride’s leadership team as well as the city of Fort Lauderdale and has received no responses.

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