Activists and allies assemble for 9th annual Harvey Milk Festival

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Sarasota | The ninth annual Harvey Milk Festival, a three-day celebration of music and the arts, will return to Five Points Park May 10-12 to honor the life and legacy of activist Harvey Milk.

“This is a festival that is focused on raising awareness and sharing the life and legacy of Harvey Milk himself,” president and founder Shannon Fortner says, “but also creating a political platform for our community to come together and have a voice. It’s to inspire people to step up and to be heard.”

“The festival’s going to be a little different this year,” Fortner continues, advising that the opening day’s art exhibit “Fluid Lines” will be on display at Selby Public Library for the event’s entirety. “People will actually be able to view it during the musical festival. It’s kind of nice to have that right there in Five Points Park.”

The exhibit will feature the work of five LGBTQ artists and allies, designed to create “a safe space for our community” in a time when “we need to be more expressive through the arts to embrace individuals and inspire others to feel passionate about what they create.”

May 11 will focus on dance, performance art, music, spoken word and film. “We’re kind of creating this collective of talent,” Fortner says, noting the event’s second day will include a screening of “Had She Never Asked Me,” a short film dedicated to Pulse. “It’s a really beautiful piece, so we’re excited to be able to show that.”

Emcees Jason Lee and VooDoo von BoomBoom will introduce the festival’s third day, which features guest speakers and free, live music from LGBTQ artists and allies. “I’m very, very excited,” Fortner says. “We select really amazing and emerging artists… the music festival itself is a really great experience.”

Fortner says that the festival has received “a lot of good feedback. It’s a great family event and it’s a really diverse crowd. It’s just this magical space where we take over downtown and from 2:30 p.m. to midnight, we’re working together as a community promoting equality and talking about how we can better our community.”

“A lot of people if they’ve been want to go back every year because of the experience they take away,” she notes. “They’re gonna find their new favorite band or realize [they’ve] seen this band before on Spotify and didn’t realize they supported [the] LGBTQ [community.] There are a lot of things people can take away from the festival.”

The ninth annual Harvey Milk Festival will be held at Five Points Park in Sarasota May 10-12. For more information, visit

Image from Harvey Milk Festival Facebook

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