Polk Pride rises up for fifth annual celebration

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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LAKELAND, Fla. | Polk Pride will hold its fifth annual celebration June 8-15, rising up to honor the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

“Polk Pride’s fifth year promises to be bigger and better than ever,” Polk Pride President Scott Guira says. “Events are planned to reach every member of the community, inclusive of all backgrounds, and will surely be a great time no matter if this is someone’s first Pride or fiftieth Pride.”

The celebration is an event of the Lakeland Youth Alliance, the 501(c)(3) which provides a safe space for LGBTQ youth and PFLAG of Polk County, an LGBTQ support group. They aspire to be the premier platform for education and entertainment for the local LGBTQ community.

It was formed to create a larger LGBTQ presence in Polk County, Executive Board Member Dustin Shay recalls, and founded to promote activism, celebration and visibility.

“Those principles are still holding true,” Shay says. “We’re not Tampa and we’re not Orlando—there’s still a heavy need in the Polk County area to provide a safe space and opportunities for activism and celebration.” This year’s theme is “Rise UP,” he adds, commemorating the organization’s guiding principles and Stonewall.

Ahead of this year’s festivities, which begin with a launch party at Lakeland Pulse June 8 from 9 p.m.-2 a.m., advocates are invited to attend Pride proclamation readings throughout the county June 3-4. “We’ve received proclamations from just about every major city or municipality in Polk,” Shay notes. “We’re not just throwing a big party, this is activism; the visibility is important.”

The celebration will offer a wide array of events. Drag Queen Brunch will be held June 9 at 11:30 a.m. and Miss Polk Gay Pride/Miss Polk Gay Pride Newcomer 2019 will be held June 10 at 6 p.m., each at Masons Live.

Pride for Youth and Pride in Faith gatherings will follow. LGBTQ youth and allies ages 13-20 will celebrate the former June 12 from 7-9 p.m. at Skate World Lakeland. The latter’s interfaith worship service will be held at Beacon Hill Fellowship June 13 from 7-9 p.m.

Pride Kickoff, a reception and cocktail party, will be held June 14 from 7-10 p.m. at the Peggy Brown Building, gearing up for Pride in the Park June 15. The main event, held at Munn Park from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., will feature 100 vendors and entertainment running for the event’s entirety.

Emcee Trishelle Michaels will welcome fellow drag entertainers Allegra Williams, Crystle Chambers, Ja’Staria Sherrington, Japonica Werk and the newly-crowned Miss Polk Gay Pride and Miss Polk Gay Pride Newcomer to the main stage. The Central Florida Sounds of Freedom Band & Color Guard and Tampa Bay favorites Halcyon will also perform. Pride After Dark will close out Polk Pride 2019 from 9 p.m. until midnight at Lkld Live.

“We encourage people to come out, not just to Pride in the Park but to all of our events over the course of the week,” Shay says. “In our current political climate it’s important that we all have a place where we can express ourselves and come together as a community.”

For more information about Polk Pride 2019, visit PolkPrideFL.com.

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