The beads, the parade, and all the Pride is back! After a year off due to the COVID crisis the Stonewall Pride Parade & Street Festival is back this weekend.

The theme is, appropriately, “Out of the Darkness, Into the Light'' as the LGBT community and allies come together to reconnect and celebrate.

"We invite all of South Florida to come out and celebrate this important day with the LGBTQ+ community,” Jeff Sterling said.

As the CEO of the group organizing the festival, WMEG Community Marketing and Events, Sterling is excited to bring back Wilton Manors’ premier event.

“We have put together a fun festival and a spectacular parade,” he said.

The street party starts at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 19, and much of Wilton Drive will be closed to auto traffic from The Tropics Bar & Grille to near Five Points. Six stages will line Wilton Drive with the Main Stage will be at the intersection of NE 6th Avenue across from the Alibi and Hunter’s. Other performance spots will include outside Matty’s, in the plaza parking lot outside Hunter’s, as well as down towards The Manor. Several bars and restaurants plan to set up outside service.

SunServe will have a tent and a dunk tank, a cooling station, and karaoke outside their offices at Wilton Executive Suites. Director of Development Terry Dyer said it’s going to be a busy day, and an important day personally for him.

“We have just endured one of the worst years in history. We need something to celebrate,” he said. “We need pride in who we are. We need pride in still being alive and healthy and celebrating those who we’ve lost in the past year. We need to come together and celebrate with each other.”

The parade returns at 7 p.m. when the temperatures drop slightly and there’s less direct sun. Leading the party will be a pair of distinguished Grand Marshals. Dr. Requel Lopes is the executive director of the World AIDS Museum in Fort Lauderdale. Joining her is NBC6 Meteorologist Steve MacLaughlin.

Stonewall usually draws 35,000 people and Dr. Lopes expects it could be even bigger this year. The Co-Grand Marshal said her favorite part is seeing communities come together.

“Being able to see the diversity of people who are part of the march. To watch as people walk through is heartwarming,” she said. “When you see the youth and you see the seasoned people of our community and the allies that also are there. It’s the oneness that I like about it.”

Stonewall celebrations in South Florida and across the country remember the Stonewall Riots, the start of the modern LGBT rights movement. Now there is marriage equality in the public square and lots of positive role models.

Back then the fight was to not be harassed and left in peace. Sterling says that even though we’ve come a long way, the struggle continues.

“It's been 52 years since the riots at the Stonewall Inn and LGBTQ+ Americans are still treated as less than equal under the law simply because of who they are and who they love. It is still legal to discriminate against the LGBTQ community in almost 30 states which offer no legal protections in areas such as housing and employment. This is unacceptable,” he said. “Stonewall Pride recognizes both our achievements and struggle for equality and passage of the Equality Act."

A five-dollar admission charge will help defray the costs of putting on the festival, which runs about a half-million dollars. To learn more go to their website: StonewallPride.LGBT.

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