Sarasota Pride brings more than 5,000 to its fourth outdoor festival

By : Steve Blanchard
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Sarasota – The LGBT community of Sarasota was out in full force to celebrate its annual Pride festival on Oct. 19. Estimates put more than 5,000 people trickling through J.D. Hamel Park throughout the day, while live music and guest speakers kept the crowds engaged from the stage for six hours.

“The best thing about Sarasota Pride is that it’s ours,” said Jamie Moore, a Sarasota resident who attended the festival with her two young boys. “St. Pete Pride is great. Come Out With Pride is fantastic. But this festival, right here, is all ours and we should be proud to have it!”

Moore’s two boys, 4 and 8, were two of many children attending the festival. And that wasn’t an accident, according to Cindy Barnes, chair of the Pride board.

“We want to be the most family-friendly Pride there is,” Barnes said during the organizing of the celebration. “Our face-painting area is sponsored by Ringling College and we want families and kids to come out and enjoy the day.”

After just an hour or so, children, and some adults, were walking around the park with face paint depicting animals, bright colors and superheroes. Many were eating ice cream or barbecue from one of several food trucks parked alongside the park.

The 2013 festival was the 24th Pride event in Sarasota and the fourth outdoor festival. Barnes has been at the head of the reinvented Pride all four years.

“I saw where it was headed and I wanted to save it,” said Barnes. “I wanted it downtown and out where the city could see us. That’s what Pride is supposed to be.”

Many enjoying Sarasota Pride agreed, as they remembered past Pride celebrations inside the Robarts Arena and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

“Those were amazing events, but we were hidden away from the rest of the overall community, which defeated the purpose of Pride,” recalled Thomas Michael, who lives in Bradenton. “But things have changed in our country and in our state. I think you’re seeing more people coming out of the closet and less afraid to be seen in public at an event like this. The numbers are growing each year, and that supports what I said. Sarasota is finally, truly proud.”

According to Barnes, there were more vendors during the 2013 festival, despite her having to use a different configuration for tents thanks to construction in the park. The only complaint many had was the unseasonably warm weather-near 90 degrees-the day of the festival.

But even that didn’t dissuade the celebratory mood.

“Enjoy yourselves and celebrate who you are,” Barnes told the crowd from the stage next to the vendor booths. “This is our day. This is your day.”

Photos by Steve Blanchard.

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