Sarasota gears up for largest outdoor Pride festival yet on Oct. 19

By : Steve Blanchard
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For the fourth year in a row, Sarasota Pride will display its rainbow colors at J.D. Hamel Park along the city’s waterfront on Saturday, Oct. 19. But the festival, which brought more than 5,000 people to downtown in 2012, is much older than four years old.

Sarasota Pride began in 1989 as an indoor festival and, over the years, found homes in several buildings, from a church, to an arena and even the Van Wezel. But organizer Cindy Barnes reinvented the festival in 2010, bringing out into the open and helping it grow in both vendors and participation.

“I saw where it was headed and I wanted to save it,” said Barnes, who had volunteered with Sarasota Pride before taking it over. “I wanted it downtown and out where the city could see us. That’s what Pride is supposed to be.”

Now entering into her fourth year as the organizer, Barnes is excited to say that the festival will be the biggest one yet, and more vendors than in years past are on board to set up in the shaded park, despite some ongoing construction.

“The city of Sarasota has been working on the sewer lines under the park so a portion will be unavailable to us,” Barnes said, adding that the type of work occurring will not cause any uncomfortable odors or fumes to disrupt the celebration. “They’re replacing pipes, which will cause me to change the layout of the festival a little. But we are going to make it work and it’s going to be a fantastic day.”

Many familiar features will return to J.D. Hamel park on the 19th, including large tents covering large number of vendors, speakers and entertainers from the stage and a large family area, complete with artists and face painters.

Also returning are the food trucks that were so popular last year – but in 2013 there will be more of them.

“It just makes sense to have them there because they have their own licenses and insurance, etc.,” Barnes explained. “They are their own entities, so people can purchase food directly from the trucks.”

Those wanting to enjoy alcohol – and there is a full liquor bar as well as a beer truck scheduled to attend – must purchase tickets from Sarasota Pride to present to the alcohol vendors. The popular and specially-priced Sarasota Pride tumbler will also return this year, complete with a top, to add a souvenir flavor to the festivities.

“The City of Sarasota has been an incredible machine to work with,” Barnes said. “Every person I’ve dealt with has been willing to cooperate with me and seems to understand the importance of Pride to the community and to the city.”

Sarasota Pride 2013 begins at noon and runs until 6 p.m. Opening ceremonies will include a few dignitaries and bands ranging from Karmic Tattoo to Watermark cover girl Jami Gee will keep the music and energy flowing all day long. There will also be a large team of volunteers helping things run smoothly this year, and Barnes said a large majority of those volunteers are young people.

“School kids have agreed to do so many hours of community service to help their transcripts,” Barnes explained. “There are so many who have called asking if they can come out and help me on Oct. 19. Of course I welcome the help! Plus it’s a great way to show our youth that the LGBT community is united here and while we’re focused a lot on adult issues like marriage equality, we’re also here to help our youth. Look at the bullying epidemic. Our LGBT youth need to know we are here and that we can help.”

Barnes said there is still vendor space available for Pride 2013 and encourages anyone interested to contact her directly at 941-320-9268. For information on entertainers, visit SarasotaPride.org.

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