This past Saturday, the City of Wilton Manors hosted the much anticipated Stonewall Pride Parade and Street Festival. The annual event typically attracts 50,000 spectators and has a direct economic impact of more than $6 million dollars for the City of Wilton Manors. Stonewall Pride celebrates the historic Stonewall Riots which took place on June 28, 1969, in New York City, launching the LGBT+ human rights movement.
The event took place a month after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that made it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to go to adult live performances like drag shows. The new law forced organizers of the parade to make some changes.
“We wanted to make sure that we adhere to the law, but still having fun and celebrating our victories,” said festival organizer Jameer Baptiste(*). “So we brought everything that’s 18 and older inside into the club, and we’re so lucky to be on [Wilton] Drive, where there’s a multitude of gay and gay-friendly clubs.”
While the City of Wilton Manors did not prohibit drag performers from taking part in the street festival, it still reminded participants to keep their costumes modest. “What you’ll see on the stage are kid-friendly, family-friendly entertainment on the outside,” said Baptiste.
The 2023 Pride Parade Grand Marshals were Real Housewives of Miami’s Julia Lemigova, (who made history as the first openly LGBT+ housewife to be part of the Bravo franchise and is married to tennis royalty Martina Navratilova), and influential HIV/AIDS Advocate Ederick Johnson.
The City of Wilton Manors, located in Broward County, (a stone’s throw north of Fort Lauderdale), was incorporated in 1947. The city is home to a sizable LGBT+ population and has become a destination for LGBT+ tourists, who frequent its many nightclubs and gay-owned businesses along the main street, Wilton Drive, where the parade took place.
Wilton Manors had the distinction of electing Broward County’s first openly gay elected official in 1988. By the year 2000, the City of Wilton Manors had made history as having the second gay-majority governing body in the United States. History was again made in November 2018 when Wilton Manors became the first city in Florida with an all-LGBTQ+ City Commission – second only to Palm Springs, California.
After photographing the parade on my own in 2019 (BC) and in 2022 (AC), the good folks at Hotspots Media Group contracted me to be an “official” photographer at this year’s event which gave me access to the VIP area and, more importantly, street access to the twilight parade. And despite having to sit out a few passing thunderstorms throughout the day which delayed the start of the parade, the weather cleared up in the evening and the parade went on as planned.