Every pride festival is unique, from place to place and from year to year. With each parade there is another reason to celebrate (or protest) and with every festival there is an opportunity to party with a purpose. Here, in Palm Beach County, we have gotten in the habit of telling people we march in March because that’s when the snowbirds are here. We memorialize the Stonewall Uprising the last week of June with the rest of the nation at our annual Stonewall Ball, but we take to our warm streets when many people across the country are busy shoveling theirs.
Compass’ annual walk in West Palm Beach’s Howard Park blossomed into a full-blown parade down Lake Avenue in Lake Worth in 2000. We launched out of our cozy gayborhood in Grandview Heights and landed, Lakeside, in Bryant Park. At the time we couldn’t have known that less than a decade later we’d be opening a new community center blocks away from where we now line the sidewalks, but looking back, we should have.
Palm Beach County’s Pridefest is one of few that is actually organized and produced by its LGBT center. With the assistance of our local bars, clubs and other businesses - most of them gay-owned at the time - Compass’ staff and volunteers created what is now our largest annual outreach event. Our purpose wasn’t only to create a focal point for community organizing, but to build an event capable of funding outreach programs to benefit our community all year long. From the beginning Compass’ goal was to grow, and now this annual gathering serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come.
We’ve walked down this new road together, and with each year more of our friends, families, neighbors and businesses have found unique ways to support our community and make us feel welcome. In that time, collectively, we’ve transformed the revenues generated from Pridefest into a countywide Pride Business Alliance, an Equality Prom and Lavender Graduation for our youth, and have built strong partnerships with local, state and national organizations that value our work.
Compass has maintained the many programs that were originally supported with government funding back then, but with events like Pridefest, we’ve built those programs into initiatives that are modeled across the country and recognized for best practices here and nationwide. Our party had a purpose from the beginning, so we shouldn’t have been surprised to see progress because our purpose is Compass’ mission, and it’s a mission that produces results.
This year, as cities and states wrestle with issues related to transgender equality, Palm Beach Pridefest Parade Grand Marshall Jazz Jennings – star of the TLC docuseries “I am Jazz,” celebrated Youtube Vlogger, advocate for GLAAD and youth ambassador for the Human Rights Campaign – will join her family in Wells Fargo’s stagecoach in what is already shaping up to be our biggest parade yet. Festival attendees will enjoy the raucous rousing of our very own Melissa St. John and RaeJean Cox as they introduce local entertainers along with International Superstar DJ Citizen Jane, host of Miami’s New Hits 97.3 - DJ Legato, and the lead singer of five Top 40 hits around the world - Thea Austin of SNAP!
As if all of that isn’t unique enough, because of the support of our annual major sponsors – Wells Fargo Bank, PNC Bank, AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the SMART Ride – every dollar collected at the gate will support and seed community programs for the year to come. So if you see our staff and volunteers smiling at Pridefest it is because we are proud, and we are proud because all of you support our community.
If You Go:
Pridefest of Lake Worth, Florida and The Palm Beaches
March 25 - March 26, 2017
Bryant Park, 201 North Dixie Highway
Lake Worth, FL 33460
For more info, click here.