Space Coast Pride takes off while Ocala Pride shines anew

By : Ciara Varone
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Fall is approaching, and along with pumpkin spice treats and still-sweltering weather, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to show your pride.

Though on the scene for eight years, this is a festival of firsts for Space Coast Pride. Expanding to three days for the first time, the festivities kick off with a launch party on Sept. 25 and end with an ocean-view brunch on Sept. 27.

“We’re super exited for all of the growth we’ve had,” said Lexi Wright, president of Space Coast Pride. “We started as a picnic.”

Previous festivals took place in Wickham Park in Melbourne, which Wright said is a great venue, but its hidden location from the main road limited the magnitude of the festival.

Wright became involved in the festival in 2014, after founding the local chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). As president of Space Coast Pride, she said her first goal was to change the location to something larger. Through the efforts of Wright and her team, this year’s festival has moved to the Eau Gallie Arts district. Because of the additional space, they will be hosting the first LGBT pride parade in Brevard County.

Wright has enlisted first openly gay Congressman Barney Frank, Mary Meeks, an attorney who fought for marriage equality in Florida, documentary filmmaker and Meeks’ wife, Vicki Nantz, and transgender rights activist Sabrina Taraboletti to serve as grand marshals for the landmark occasion.

Parade participants will have the opportunity to carry a 100 ft. piece of the Key West Sea-to-Sea rainbow flag.

With over 100 vendors this year, a lineup of musical performances on two stages, drag performances and a kids’ zone, Space Coast Pride is trying to catering to a multitude of tastes.

Wright said being in a conservative area of the state has had its drawbacks, including little media coverage and a lack of legal protections other cities have secured. But with marriage equality being legalized nationwide, Wright said she has hope for bigger things in the future.

“I continue to call this year the perfect storm,” Wright said. “Statewide stuff is trickling down to us.”

The larger scale of this year’s event can lead to continued growth in this area, Wright said.

“We’re creating a sense of community,” Wright said. “Local politicians see what power we have as a voice at the polls.”

Ocala Pride’s ninth annual festival will be held Oct. 3 at Citizen Circle. Though small compared to other Florida festivals, they’re working on expanding their influence.

“We’re trying to make ourselves more known,” said David Waters, former board member and first-year president of Ocala Pride. “A group of my friends and I, we realized last year … it’s kind of dwindling, so we took it over to try to make it better. I’ve lived here for 18 years, and up until about two years ago, I didn’t even have any idea that Ocala had a gay pride event.”

Waters and the other volunteers reached out to local businesses and charities, while better utilizing social media to promote the Wells Fargo-sponsored event, including a Ocala Pride, Waters said.

Coco Montrese from season five of RuPaul’s Drag Race and former Miss Ocala 2005 will perform at the festival

“It’s nice to bring some hometown people that’ve made it back,” Waters said. “She was happy to come and do it for us.”

Waters said Newly-crowned Mster and Miss Ocala Pride Aaron Phoenix and Stephanie Stuart will also be making an appearance. In addition, expect live musical performances and offerings from over thirty local vendors, including Pride merchandise, face painting and a variety of food.

“We want everybody to know that it’s completely family-friendly,” Waters said. “You can bring all ages. It’s going to be a lot of fun celebrating that we’re here, we’re part of the community and we want to get involved.”

The festival is collecting donations of school supplies to benefit Tools 4 Teaching and dog food and pet supplies for the Marion County Humane Society.

“I’m most excited to see all of our community come out and join together all in the same place,” Waters said. “Have a fun day of acceptance,” Waters said. “Whether you’re gay, lesbian, transgender, straight, just bring everyone together.”

Waters said he expects the festival to grow in years to come.

“Obviously, we’re not the size of Orlando or St. Pete pride or anything like that, but we do hope to get it there.” Waters said.

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