ABOVE: Tampa Pride President Carrie West, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, her longtime partner Ana Cruz and Tampa Pride Vice President Mark Eary enjoy Pride Zoo-La Nov. 2 at ZooTampa. Photo by Ryan Williams-Jent.

TAMPA | Tampa Pride kicked off its 2020 fundraising Nov. 2 at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, welcoming supporters and unveiling next year’s grand marshals.

More than 350 attended Tampa Pride’s “Wild Carnavale,” the organization’s second annual Pride Zoo-La. Guests enjoyed a silent auction, special performances and interactions with zoo animals, including a giraffe feeding.

“This is one special event,” Tampa Pride President Carrie West says. “It’s made for everyone; it isn’t overpriced and it’s a sit down, quiet and early evening. We had a great time and it was a great turnout. We try giving everyone a little treat of what’s going on in our community.”

West welcomed Tampa Mayor Jane Castor early in the evening, a two-time Tampa Pride grand marshal and longtime supporter. She proudly reflected on the status of Pride throughout Tampa Bay, discussing her election as Tampa’s 59th and first openly LGBTQ mayor while touting her inclusive accomplishments since taking office.

Those accomplishments include an executive order unveiled Aug. 14 at the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s International Business & Leadership Conference. Castor announced that Tampa would formally recognize LGBT businesses in contracting and procurement opportunities.

“It really is through a partnership with all of our citizens that we’re able to get so much done and we’re able to lift our community up,” Castor said. “I am so excited about our sixth Pride parade.”

The sixth annual celebration’s theme will be “Many Voices, One Vision,” something West says was on full display at Pride Zoo-La. “We came together with our many voices,” he reflects. “In 2020, we’ll come together as a community, we’ll come together as a country and we’ll come together as a world.”

The gathering featured a variety of entertainment, beginning with the Tampa Bay Pride Band. DJ Greg Anderson led the evening’s music, introducing emcee Adriana Sparkle, De Delovely, Amy Demilo and more.

West and Tampa Pride Vice President Mark Eary presented Catherine Lowry Straz with the organization’s Community Leader Appreciation Award between performances. The organization cited her environmental activism with ZooTampa’s Catherine Lowry Straz Veterinary Hospital, which provides services to more than 300 species.

The duo subsequently unveiled Tampa Pride 2020’s grand marshals. “Usually we don’t reveal them until January,” West says, “but we wanted people to be a part of Pride Zoo-La, so we had our 2019 grand marshals there and our new recipients.”

West says the grand marshals were chosen by Tampa Pride’s board, which carefully considered their contributions to and longtime support of Tampa Bay’s LGBTQ community at large.

The honorees are Renee Cossette, Tampa Bay International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival Director; Bradley Nelson, Bradley’s on 7th owner; Sally Phillips and Ercilia Albistu of the Hillsborough County LGBTA Democratic Caucus; Freddy and Bardha Mamudi, New York New York Pizza owners; Carol “Mama” Steen, Tampa Bay bartender; Angelique Padro, Tampa Bay performer Lady Janet and Jay Chetney, Stonewall veteran. Watermark was also chosen as Tampa Pride 2020’s community organization grand marshal.

“I can’t express how excited I am that Watermark has been named a grand marshal,” Watermark owner, publisher and editor Rick Claggett says. “We have been longtime supporters of Tampa Pride and work hard to make sure Tampa is represented as a thriving and inclusive city. It is humbling that the board of Tampa Pride recognizes that and amazing to receive such an honor from them.”

“Our grand marshals have done so much for the community,” West says, “and Tampa Pride 2020 is going to be bigger than ever. We have a lot planned.”

The sixth annual Tampa Pride will be held March 28, 2020. For more information, including sponsorship opportunities, visit TampaPride.org. To view Watermark’s photo gallery of the second annual Pride Zoo-La, click here.

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