A colorful day for equality in Sarasota

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Published: Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 10:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 10:31 p.m.

SARASOTA — For a day without rain, there were a lot of rainbows Saturday in downtown Sarasota.

From suspenders to hats and colorful feathers, it looked like part of downtown’s bayfront had been dipped in tie-dye.

About 5,000 people wandered around J.D. Hamel Park to celebrate the 24th annual Sarasota Pride Festival.

The festival, which celebrates Sarasota County’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, featured more than 60 booths showcasing everything from dog apparel to church congregations.

Cindy Barnes, chairwoman of Sarasota Pride, said it is crucial for residents to see the city’s LGBT community.

“We’re their doctors, their dentists and their neighbors,” Barnes said. “It would be lovely if we didn’t have to have pride. But until things change in this country — we’ll be here.”

And those who were at the park seemed to be having a blast.

Live music wafted between tents, as couples and families bought knick-knacks and had their faces painted.

Junior Hall, 6, chose to get a Batman mask painted on his face.

His mothers, Kate and Brandy Hall, moved to Largo this year after marrying in Ohio.

They said despite the fact that their marriage is not legally recognized in Florida, they enjoyed seeing support for their relationship in Sarasota.

“It’s awesome to have a whole community here,” Kate said. “We love it.”

There were also no anti-gay protesters in sight, a fact Sarasota resident Valerie Guillory said is a testament to Sarasota’s tolerant nature.


“It shows that Sarasota is a mecca, like a haven for equality and individuality,” she said. “You can really be yourself here.”

Guillory’s dog, Saddie Anne, wore a clip with bright, rainbow-colored feathers near her fluffy ears.

Education and activism mingled with the light-hearted fun, as groups such as Equality Florida collected names and email addresses.

Former Sarasota City Commissioner Ken Shelin, who now works with Equality Florida, said he hopes residents who passed through the festival will be encouraged to support gay-rights initiatives in the future.

“Gay people are just like everyone else,” Shelin said. “But maybe a little bit more fun.”

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