LGBTQ Resource Center celebrates Pride Month with events through June

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Gulfport | The LGBTQ Resource Center has announced a series of Pride events beginning May 31 and culminating June 24 at the St. Pete Pride Festival.

The resource center is a project of the non-profit Circle of Friends, the organization which supports the Gulfport Public Library. In February, the American Library Association awarded the library with the Newlen-Symons Award for Excellence for serving the LGBTQ community for its dedication to programming and awareness.

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Polk Pride celebrates diversity in its fourth year

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Lakeland | Local advocates and allies will hold the fourth annual Polk Pride June 13-16 to celebrate LGBTQ diversity and inclusion in Polk County.

“If you’ve never been to Polk Pride, you’ve never experienced the best of what Pride can be,” Polk Pride’s president Scott Guira says. “Polk Pride is an opportunity for absolutely anybody in any age group and any background to come out to a Pride event and really feel like it is welcoming and it is the right place for them to be.”

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Lakeland’s ButchQueen and the Bad Habits stress punk rock equality

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Lakeland, Fla., may not be known for its punk rock drag queens, but the performance arts band ButchQueen and the Bad Habits aims to change that with “Bare Grits,” the group’s debut EP released May 5.

“In a conservative town, friction caused a blister which pressure-popped and neglect allowed to fester,” their official release reads. “ButchQueen and the Bad Habits take no prisoners and make no apologies. Fusing energetic live music with bizarre theatrical experiments, this group isn’t afraid of kicking up a little dust.”

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PHOTOS: St. Petersburg breaks records at Equality Florida’s 2018 gala

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Equality Florida’s 2018 St. Pete Gala was held May 12 at the city’s Mahaffey Theater, raising a record total of $354,287 to support the organization’s work.

A total of 708 attendees dined, danced and donated in the name of equality. The event was the most-attended of any Equality Florida Gala and over $26,000 was raised in auctioned items alone.

Watermark was on hand to help celebrate the event, and you can check out some of our photos after the jump.

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Watermark’s Wedding Bells: Jennifer Warden and Traci Rodriguez

By : Aaron Drake
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I knew she was the one I would marry as soon as I realized I couldn’t be away from her and her son,” Jen Warden shared about her wife, Traci Rodriguez. “There was a bond that formed between us that felt so pure and happy. More importantly, my two little girls felt the same way I did.”

Warden, who originally hails from Wyandotte, Mich., is an esthetician and spa owner of JenSpa Advanced Esthetics & Blush Medical Day Spa. Rodriguez is a Tampa native, graduate of Florida State University, and works as a senior accountant.

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LGBTQ artists announce multi-venue Pride exhibits for June

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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St. Petersburg | Local LGBTQ artists Chad Mize and John Gascot have partnered to curate two Pride-themed art exhibits across three venues during the month of June.

“LGBTQ and ally artists will be painting the town rainbow this Pride season,” the duo announced via press release May 1. “St. Pete Pride is already well-known as Florida’s largest Pride celebration, boasting a massive parade, a variety of performances, concerts and parties, but this year creatives are making the most out of this yearly tradition to adorn galleries and artful spaces with visual celebrations of individuality, diversity and loving freely.”

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Jane Castor officially kicks off mayoral campaign

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Tampa | Tampa’s former chief of police and out LGBTQ advocate Jane Castor officially launched her campaign for Tampa mayor on May 17 to outline her vision for the city’s future.

“The message for the campaign kick-off is Tampa Strong,” Castor told Watermark ahead of the event, held at Columbia Restaurant in Ybor. Castor’s campaign will focus on a strong foundation for the city, including building stronger neighborhoods and a stronger economy.

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St. Pete Pride names Luke Blankenship as new executive director

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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St. Petersburg | St. Pete Pride announced via press release May 16 that Luke Blankenship will serve as the organization’s new executive director following his role as interim executive director.

“Following an extensive nation-wide search, where over 60 resumes were considered, Luke Blankenship has been named as the Executive Director of St Pete Pride, Inc.,” the organization announced, detailing the hiring process which began in January.

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Watermark Wednesday for May at Watermark’s Grand Central Offices in St. Pete

By : Maia Monet
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Watermark has long had a footprint in Tampa Bay, but we recently decided to open a more permanent space in the area. It is only fitting then that for our bi-monthly Watermark Wednesday in May, we decided to host it at our brand-spanking new offices at Clear Labs in St. Petersburg. Our friends and clients turned out to mingle, enjoy the impressive new digs, feast on the delicious spread and raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay.

For those of you who couldn’t make it, but would still like to support Big Brothers Big Sisters, they will have a Pride Bowl at Dunedin Lanes on June 9. More pictures of the fun had at Watermark Wednesday after the jump.

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American Stage, Matthew McGee bring “The Producers” to the park

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Being out in the park is the perfect place to do this,” Tampa Bay fan-favorite actor Matthew McGee says of “The Producers,” American Stage’s latest outdoor production. “American Stage can make gigantic sets for this huge show, they can have a large cast… and you can also make it available for lots of people to see.”

McGee plays Max Bialystock, a devious lead in Mel Brooks’ Oscar-winning 1967 film, Tony-winning 2001 musical and subsequent 2005 film of the same name. The cult classic, described as an “equal opportunity offender,” follows Bialystock and fellow-schemer Leo Bloom as they produce the most notorious flop in history, bilking their backers out of millions of dollars.

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Watermark’s Wedding Bells: CJay Tauber & Steven Frost

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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I knew it,” Steven Frost says of meeting his husband CJay Tauber for the first time. “I knew it right away. It was one of those moments where you see somebody, and you don’t know why but you know you’re gonna spend the rest of your life with him.”

Frost had decided to spend his birthday in 2015 at Quench Lounge in Largo, where local favorite Tauber still bartends. “He came in and I was going back to officiate my niece’s wedding in Wisconsin,” Tauber recalls with a laugh. “So I left, but he couldn’t wait to come back and get my number.”

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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.”

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