Manatee Pride aims for bigger, better on March 21

By : Aaron Alper
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Bradenton – “It’s a day of food, fun, music, entertainment and community.”

That is how Valerie A. Fisher, head of the Youth Prism Initiative (a support group for young LGBT residents of Manatee county) described Manatee Pride, which was the first annual pride event ever held in Manatee County in 2014.

The day ended up proving to be a bigger success than anyone anticipated.

“We were aiming for 500 people,” she said. And 500 showed up—three times over. Manatee Pride was a hit that nobody anticipated and everyone loved.

“The feedback we got was overwhelmingly positive,” Fisher said. “It was a beautiful day and everyone had fun.”

The success was a double-edged sword; while everyone was thrilled at the turnout, the event was not prepared for the onslaught.

“We had too few food vendors. It was woefully inadequate,” Fisher said, laughing. “Last year we had a taco truck. So this year we are going for fine food. Something that you actually would save your appetite for! People aren’t going to have to stop off at Subway beforehand because the food at the event sucks.”

This year Manatee Pride’s food will be provided by the Tableside Restaurant Group, which does food for upscale establishments in Sarasota. Pride is going straight-up gourmet the second time around.

Along with the food, the entertainment is also receiving the star-treatment.

“Throb, who handled the entertainment for us last year, is bringing us Serena ChaCha from Rupaul’s Drag Race,” Fisher said. “That’s exciting. We didn’t have anything like that last year.”

Other acts, such as Community Voices, will return as well and more slots are still being filled with local talent.

It is clear that Pride will be a party, but Fisher wants the community to know why the success of the celebration is so important. The reason for Pride is to support the Prism Youth Initiative, which is a local safe house for young LGBT residents (aged 13-23) of Manatee County to come together for a variety of activities that help give them a sense of community in the rocky times that come with being younger.

The Prism Youth Initiative runs the gamut for helping out the young folk: it provides referrals, sponsors field trips and holds discussions on LGBTQ culture, both current and historical.

“We try to give a sense of history to them,” Fisher explained. “The young people are sometimes unaware of the struggles that happened to get us where we are. We attempt to educate them about that.”

Fisher, who runs the group along with her partner, said that many of the attendees get a sense of community that makes them feel “as though they’ve finally made it home.” Fisher even donates her professional capacities as a therapist to help those who are interested in beginning the process of transitioning.

Fisher is not shy to say that Pride has a purpose.

“It’s a fundraiser,” she said. “That’s the reason why we’re doing it.”

The second annual Manatee Pride is Saturday, March 21 at Bradeont’s Downtown Riverwalk and runs from noon to 5 p.m. Sponsorships and vendor booth areas are still available at

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