(WM) Sarasota Pride will be held Jan. 25 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at J.D. Hamel Park, the first January outing in the celebration’s 30-year history.

Sarasota Pride, Inc., its organizing nonprofit, exists to encourage visibility for members of the LGBTQ community living in Sarasota and throughout Florida. It promotes the elimination of prejudice and defends civil rights through community activities like this year’s Pride in the Park.

An estimated 6,000 participants attended Sarasota Pride’s last gathering on Oct. 20, 2018, Sarasota Pride, Inc. Chair Cindy Barnes says. In August of last year, the organization announced it would skip its traditional October festival, and thus 2019 altogether, citing scheduling conflicts with the city.

Barnes now sees the conflict as a blessing. Sarasota Oktoberfest, held at J.D. Hamel Park in lieu of Sarasota Pride 2019, was shuttered due to inclement weather. “We would have had to cancel the thing,” she says. “This was the first date that was available after the storm.”

She also sees the move as benefiting the organization and Pride attendees in other ways. “October is one of the busiest months of the year,” Barnes says. “When we had Pride in 2018 there were seven events going on in town that day. It’s hard to get tents, tables and chairs.”

Barnes also cites the weather, noting that Sarasota Pride had previously been held in October to avoid the Florida’s summer heat. “I don’t think it’s ever going to be cool in October again,” she says, “and it’s such a busy month. I think the weather’s going to be much better.”

More than 40 new and returning vendors are expected to fill J.D. Hamel Park for Sarasota Pride this year, showcasing an impressive assortment of goods and services. “We have a lot of vendors who have never been here before,” Barnes says, “they’ve just come out of the woodwork. We also have our repeat offenders, as I call them; they always come back. We have a big variety this year.”

That includes a wide range of food and beverages, with Barnes touting “the cheapest alcohol of any festival in Sarasota.” Attendees can expect a plethora of fan favorite entertainment as well.

The St. Petersburg-based pop/rock duo Halcyon perform from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., followed by the Sarasota-based rock group Divine AF from 2 – 4 p.m. Between performances, emcee Lindsay Carlton-Cline will be joined by fellow drag entertainers Anita Cox, Savannah Lynn and Grandma Pearl for performances throughout the festival.

Sarasota Pride isn’t likely to return to an October outing, Barnes says, but says the organization’s six-member board will consider feedback from the community. “It will depend on how this turns out,” she says, “but I think we will probably stay in January.

“Everyone can’t have Pride in June and October,” Barnes adds. “We’ll have to evaluate after it’s over, see how everyone feels and go from there. Just come out and have a good time.”

Sarasota Pride 2020 will be held Jan. 25 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at J.D. Hamel Park. For more information, visit SarasotaPride.org.