Sarasota – Shelly Adams started coming to Sarasota Pride when she learned the festival relocated along Sarasota’s waterfront five years ago. But something felt different as she wandered among the booths on Oct. 18 this year.
“There’s so much music,” she said. “It seems like non-stop entertainment. I’ve tried to see all of the vendors, but I also don’t want to miss any of the entertainment. It’s a fun problem to have.”
The 28 year old Ohio native has been to Pride festivals before—some of them much larger—but she said she enjoys the intimacy of Sarasota Pride, which boasted several thousand attendees throughout the course of the day.
“There’s such a feeling of community here,” she said. “And it’s run like a well-oiled machine.”
That is thanks to organizer and Sarasota Pride board chair Cindy Barnes, who pushed for relocating the festival to an outdoor venue five years ago. This year’s festival marked 25 years of Pride in Sarasota, and Barnes was thrilled with how the day turned out.
“This is perfect weather,” Barnes announced from the stage. “And we have an amazing day for you. If you get bored, it’s your own fault.”
The day was kicked off as in years’ past with Diversity: The Voices of Sarasota. The LGBT choir sang several selections—including a few show tunes—to start off the day. Attendees were also treated to a glimpse of Venice Theatre’s Rocky Horror Show and saw the return of drag to Sarasota Pride.
“I’m so excited about drag returning to Pride,” Barnes said before the festival. “This is something we’ve been wanting to do and Lindsay Carlton and her team puts together an amazing production.”
Carlton not only organized the “Dragtastics” section of the lineup, but served as hostess and emcee throughout the day.
“Are you all having fun?” she asked from the stage. “Because we sure as hell are. It’s great to be here in Sarasota celebrating who we are!”
Former Sarasota City Commissioner Suzanne Atwell read the city’s proclamation declaring it Unity in Pride Day in Sarasota, and was cheered on by the entire Pride board, which stood behind her.
Danny Ryson, who attends Ringling College, ventured out to Sarasota Pride for the first time Oct. 18. He said he was surprised at the number of LGBT people in the community.
“I haven’t been here very long,” said the newly relocated north Florida native. “I was out in my high school and I’ve seen Prides, but I haven’t really been to any. This is my first. I really didn’t expect it to be this big. I’m pleasantly surprised.”
Ryson said he hopes to return in 2015 and would like to have a boyfriend by then.
“Maybe I’ll meet the right guy during school this year or over the holiday break,” he said somewhat jokingly. “I’d love to walk through the festival holding hands with my boyfriend like I’ve seen other couples doing today. To me, that just makes such a powerful statement.”
Exact attendance numbers weren’t available at press time.