Condensed Milk: Harvey Milk Fest fundraiser raises $500

By : Billy Manes
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“This year was like a $40,000 cesspool,” Sarasota’s Harvey Milk Festival President Shannon Fortner says, nearly two months after the festivities meant to honor the San Francisco (and global) legend of gay rights activism. This year’s party, featuring electro-pop emotion-driver Bright Light Bright Light (Rod Thomas), who recently opened for Elton John out west, was practically ruined by Florida’s fantastic flirtations with precipitation deluges. Though raw estimates of attendance were somewhere in the 2,000 to 5,000 range in its sixth year (a wide berth), inclement weather hindered the nonprofit from making up its financial losses, Fortner says.

“This is our sixth year and we’ve never had a rain problem,” she says. “And we already had our first protesters this year. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing … That, and the rain was a distraction.”

To remedy the perils of a Florida summer in a year of LGBT celebration — clearly, the marriage decision and Milk’s May 22 birthday were in mind for the May 16 celebration at Five Points Park — Fortner pulled together a July 11 fundraiser at Throb Nightclub in Sarasota in order to keep the popular celebration free to audiences.

“This is a festival to keep the festival going,” she said before the event. Also, however, it was “an excuse to get together and celebrate.”

We reached out to Fortner after the event to get a read on how things went, and, well, it wasn’t as good as it could have been, she said via text message (she lost her voice), even though it “went great.” The event raised an estimated $500, which is enormously shy of the $5,000 the group was hoping to raise. The fundraising will continue through gofundme.com and PayPal. Also, there is a 2016 festival on the horizon, so all is not lost.

“We look forward to some supporters to step up and help us move forward,” Fortner writes. “We are uniting the community and bringing everyone together in honor of Harvey Milk. This is an important event and we’re growing each year. Join our family and be a part of HMF. Sponsorships are available for May 12, 13, and 14, 2016 contact shai@harveymilkfestival.com.”

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