Fourth Annual Manatee Pride to include new vendors, entertainment and signature beer

By : Krista Di Tucci
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BRADENTON – Manatee County is gearing up for its fourth annual Manatee Pride on March 18 from noon to 6 p.m. at the Bradenton Riverwalk.

“Manatee Pride is a family-friendly event,” Rick Dorociak, Prism Youth Initiative secretary and Pride entertainment/concessions coordinator, says. “There is something for everyone: music, food, beer, amazing vendors, and even a splash park.”

Manatee Pride’s goal is to raise funds for Prism Youth Initiative, a nonprofit community organization dedicated to providing resources and a safe, supportive center for LGBTQ youth in Manatee County since 2010.

Valerie Fisher, Prism board president and Pride committee chair, says this year’s proceeds will be dedicated to continuing current services, as well increasing outreach so more youth know about the center.

“Pride was initiated as a fundraiser for Prism, but also to demonstrate to the youth that you can be out and be proud of whom you are,” Fisher says. “We’re still here and we’re not going anywhere. In the past, we’ve had to hide who we are and so many of us are not willing to go back to that.”

This year’s Manatee Pride is expected to be the largest to date; in fact, the Pride committee added an extra hour to accommodate the increase in food vendors, program events, and performers. Dorociak says last year’s Pride attracted about 2,000 people, but this year he expects closer to 3,000.

“It’s amazing to see so many people getting involved,” Dorociak says. “We are growing and growing. I couldn’t be more excited and proud about what we have going on this year.”

The day will kick off with an interface service led by local clergy within the community. Fisher says the service – or, as she prefers to call it, ceremony – will include an interface blessing recognizing the pink triangle as well as distributing pink triangles among the crowd.

Another addition to this year’s celebration is the “Manatee Pride Beer,”a crisp guava lager designed byDarwinBrewery Co. specifically for the event.

Melissa Rhodes, Prism outreach coordinator and Pride board member, proposed the idea for a Manatee Pride beer. Rhodes says she is always trying to come up with creative ideas for Pride and realized no other Pride festivals have featured their own beer.

“Everyone thought I was out in left field and it wasn’t going to happen,” Rhodes says. “I said, ‘No, we’re going to have our own beer this year.’”

Rhodes says she shared her vision of a “light, clean, crisp spring day” with the brew master and he came up with exactly what she envisioned. She says she is hoping to offer a craft beer and food pairing at Pride between the lager and food vendors. If “Manatee Pride Beer” is a hit, it will be featured in various local bars. As an added bonus, anyone who buys a Manatee Pride cup will receive $1 discount on the beer.

“Valerie (Fisher) never drinks beer and she said it’s very good,” Rhodes says of her wife. “We’ve been together for 25 years, so that’s a good indicator that it’s delicious and it’s going to sell.”

This year’s Manatee Pride entertainment will include The Hatley Band, Jami Gee, Moxie Moxie, and Elaine Bolton; noted drag queens BenevaFruitville, Felicity LiemontRoxxy, Jaeda Fuentes, KeKe Monroe, and Ashlee T. Bangkx; and two ensembles from The Players Centre for Performing Arts. Interchangeable Parts will lead a special performance of Rocky Horror Picture Show’s “Time Warp.” Spin master DJ Lexx and master of ceremonies Big Daddy Ro will keep the party going. The day will also include raffles for an official Tampa Bay Lightning jersey and two 50-inch flat screen televisions.

Barrel 87 in Sarasota and The Flamingo Resort in St. Pete will be hosting the Manatee Pride after-parties. Barrel 87 festivities start at 9 p.m. and will feature BenevaFruitville, Hunter Vance & the Boys, drag shows, and drink specials. The Flamingo Resort party will include a poolside deejay from 6-10 p.m., dancers from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., drag shows with Iman featuring the Flamingo Blu Theater Players, and drink and hotel specials.

“We are pleased that both venues are promoting Manatee Pride and can offer our community a place to party on!” Fisher says.

Manatee Pride 2017 is sponsored by Community AIDS Network (CAN), who will be on site offering health screenings. Other returning sponsors include Macy’s, Wal-Mart, The Flamingo Resort and Entertainment Center, The Bradenton Herald, Watermark and Watermark Online,, J&J Graphics, Metro Wellness Centers, METV, and Tropicana (a major Bradenton employer and subsidiary of PepsiCo). Additionally, METV will be recording the festival and Tropicana will be providing free orange juice.

New sponsors include Darwin Brewing Co.,, and XTC. Sponsorships from $250 to $2500 are still available.

“I’m amazed and happy that it’s our fourth year, which is especially exciting for a tightknit, more conservative community,” Rhodes says. “I feel like we’ve really succeeded.”

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