Sarasota gears up for outdoor festival

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As Oct. 22 approaches, Cindy Barnes is busy making last minute arrangements to ensure Sarasota Pride 2011 goes off without a hitch.

This is the second year that Barnes has organized the celebration at J.B. Hamil Park in downtown Sarasota, and she's using lessons learned from last year's successful inaugural event to improve this year's experience.

SarasotaPride2011This year, Barnes said festival attendees can expect to see even more vendors than last year since the entire celebration will be on one side of Main Street. Last year, the vendor expo was on one side while the entertainment went on throughout the afternoon on the other.

â┚¬Å”Everyone will be in the park,â┚¬Â Barnes said. â┚¬Å”There's no more having to cross a street.â┚¬Â

That will ensure the vendors are part of the action and it should make for a cooler day, since the entire vendor area is scheduled to be in the shade.

It also means every entertainer will be within earshot of the entire festival. As of press time, the entertainment lineup included Stephanie Callahan and Deb Hunseder of Halcyon, the girls of Karmic Tattoo, the Venice trio The Sugar Rockets, The Sons of Beaches rock band and the Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps.

Barnes said the popular dunking booth will return again this year and put area celebrities and politicians over the cold water, and face painting will be available for the kids.

The Sarasota Pride Street Festival begins on Saturday, Oct. 22, at noon and runs until 6 p.m. Several local luminaries are expected to attend, including Mayor-At-Large Suzanne Atwell, who has volunteered to be in the popular dunking booth.

â┚¬Å”The City of Sarasota has been amazingly supportive,â┚¬Â Barnes said. â┚¬Å”Each department has been extremely helpful in directing me to the next step of planning. The city wants events like this downtown. It's good for the city and it's good for our community.â┚¬Â

Barnes said she wouldn't be surprised if the festival isn't swarmed by local politicians, considering 2012 is a huge election year.

â┚¬Å”I think that says a lot for Sarasota and for the community here,â┚¬Â Barnes said. â┚¬Å”It's exciting.â┚¬Â

Sarasota Pride has held several events already this month, including an Oct. 1 Walk for Equality and Unity, which stretched a large rainbow flag across the Ringling Bridge in downtown Sarasota to kick off Pride Month.

On Sunday, Oct. 16, a Prelude to Pride Tea Dance is scheduled at The Loft Ristobar from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and the $5 entry fee benefits Sarasota Pride.

The free festival is the following week on Oct. 22.

Last year's celebration brought an estimated 2,000 people to the downtown area of Sarasota. This year could see similarâ┚¬â€if not largerâ┚¬â€numbers.

â┚¬Å”There's excitement about the festival again this year,â┚¬Â Barnes said. â┚¬Å”For so long Sarasota wanted an outdoor gay pride event and now we finally have one. The community, the sponsors, the entertainersâ┚¬â€everyone has just been incredibly supportive and we expect to see a lot of new and familiar faces this month.â┚¬Â

Stretching Sarasota Pride events throughout the month has proved beneficial, especially since at last year's street festival, the board and volunteers were exhausted from seven straight days of events.

â┚¬Å”Last year we held an event every night of the week leading up to the street festival,â┚¬Â Barnes said. â┚¬Å”That was too much and we were exhausted the day of Pride. This year we're stretching it out over every weekend of the month. That makes the events more accessible to everyone and easier on us.â┚¬Â

For a full schedule of events leading up to Sarasota Pride 2011, visit

The Oct. 22 festival is free. Those interested in becoming sponsors, volunteers or vendors can still sign up at the web site.

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