Harvey Milk Festival holds 10th annual celebration

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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SARASOTA | The Harvey Milk Festival (HMF) will hold its 10th annual celebration May 9-11, honoring the life and legacy of activist Harvey Milk by fostering the arts as a catalyst for change.

“It feels comforting,” founder and HMF Executive Director Shannon Fortner says of entering the festival’s 10th year. “I feel proud of our community that we’re able to sustain festivities.”

Those festivities begin ahead of this year’s festival with a literary gathering co-presented by Wordier Than Thou. On May 3, LGBTQ authors will present their work at Bookstore1. HMF will subsequently hold their inaugural “Fun-K” Run4Loveat JD Hamel Park May 4, where participants will cross the Ringling Bridge to illuminate it in rainbow colors.

“The 50th anniversary of Stonewall is coming up,” Fortner explains. “That’s a lot of the focus this year. We wanted to be able to light up the bridge in honor of our LGBTQ pioneers, getting the community to come and celebrate diversity.”

On May 8, Moxie Productions will present an original queer showcase at The Gator Club, and HMF will kick off its first historical exhibit, “Before Harvey: An Exploration of National LGBTQ+ History,” at The Art Center Sarasota May 9-11. “As the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots quickly approaches, we are reminded of those who actively fought for our humanity and the right to live as our authentic selves,” the showcase is described. “Let our history serve as a constant reminder of the hardships we have overcome and the progress we have yet to make as a community.”

“It goes back to the late 1800s and puts in perspective just how things have progressed with the movement,” Fortner elaborates. “It gives us a platform to educate the community.” Opening night will feature a panel discussion featuring academic figures in Florida.

On May 10, HMF will present The BASSment, a night of performance art, dance, film and music moderated by Lisa L. Boogie Bauford. “This is definitely not to be missed,” Fortner says. “She blew our minds last year … she’s created a network of really amazing and talented artists.”

A champagne brunch will follow May 11 at Sage SRQ before Fortner kicks off HMF’s music festival at 2:20 p.m. at JD Hamel Park. Fan favorite musicians from across the U.S. will perform, including headliners GGOOLLDD, Pinc Louds, LANNDS, MeteorEYES, Linqua Franqa, MONTERREY, Divine AF, The Pretty Dirties, Kristopher James and Lemon Royale.

The lineup, with returning emcees Beneva Fruitville and Jason Lee, concludes at 11:30 p.m. HMF will welcome keynote speaker and ALSO Youth Executive Director Nathan Bruemmer at 7 p.m. and hold a vigil honoring Milk and more at 8:50 p.m.

“The Harvey Milk Festival is community focused and community driven,” Fortner says. “I want to thank everyone that’s helped get that footing for the festival to be so successful. It really takes a community to pull it off.”

For more information about the 10th annual HMF, including volunteer or sponsorship opportunities, its venues or events, visit HarveyMilkFestival.org.

Photo via HMF’s Facebook page.

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