Last year about 40,000 revelers packed the streets of Wilton Manors to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. This year the streets will be quiet thanks to the spread of the coronavirus.
The popular Stonewall Pride Parade and Street celebration, planned for June, was postponed this week as Florida coronavirus cases continue to climb and social distancing guidelines were extended through mid-April. If rescheduled in December, it would be one day instead of two.
“We don’t know what is going on because it is hard to give a firm date,” said event organizer Jeffrey Sterling, CEO of the Wilton Manors Entertainment Group. “Pride of Americas and South Beach Pride also got postponed. We don’t know how this is going to affect Hialeah Pride.”
The Stonewall Riots helped launched the modern LGBT rights movement.
If social distancing restrictions are relaxed by the end of the year, other popular events could also be rescheduled. But too many events which share the same sponsors scheduled for the last quarter of the year could be problematic: the pot of sponsorship funds is likely to be greatly reduced due to all the required business closures.
“Are we going to have less vendors? Probably. Everyone is going to have less money,” Sterling said. “It would be a lot different if we didn’t share the same vendors and sponsors. That is why I’m assuming we are going to take a huge smack. Assume the worst and design something that fits that model. We think attendance will be OK but we just think vendor-sponsor donations will be down.”
Wilton Manors Commissioner Paul Rolli said the huge events bring an infusion of cash to the bars and restaurants in the city, and hopefully entices visitors to return. The longterm shutdown, however, leaves a lot up in question.
“It’s no surprise. I just think it’s a natural following that Stonewall be postponed since the shutdown has been extended,” Rolli said. “One thing I am concerned about is where do we go from here? I expect property values will go down. We will have to look at where we can cut.”
A 2017 study showed that most of Stonewall’s festival-goers come from Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe counties, all areas with high numbers of cases of the coronavirus. About 5,000 people come from other areas, Sterling said.
The festival costs about $500,000 to run, with approximately half coming from in-kind donations and half coming from cash, Sterling said. The Broward Cultural Division recently awarded the festival a $40,000 grant for 2020 and also for 2021, but where other funds will come from is unclear because of the economic uncertainty.
The Wilton Manors Entertainment Group handles about 40 events a year for Wilton Manors, and so far, all events through April have been canceled, with more cancellations anticipated.
Monthly canceled events include Art Walk, the third Saturday of every month; Vibes on the Drive, the second Wednesday of every month; and Pride Skate Nights, the third Wednesday of every month, at Xtreme Action Park. Other events include the Wilton Manors Business Association’s health fair and Taste of the Island.