Four-Day Festival Included Fort Lauderdale’s First-Ever Parade Along Beach
More than 120,000 visitors from the U.S. and beyond experienced the 42nd annual Pride Fort Lauderdale festival, which took place from Thursday, Feb. 21 through Sunday, Feb. 24 in Greater Fort Lauderdale. The carnaval-themed festival included the first parade ever held along iconic Fort Lauderdale Beach.
“Greater Fort Lauderdale is a very welcoming destination, and I’m so proud of our community and hospitality industry for embracing diversity and inclusion and showing our local residents and visitors how welcomed they are here during Pride Fort Lauderdale and year-round,” said Richard Gray, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The sights and sounds of the Caribbean and Brazil came alive throughout the festival. The 2019 Carnaval theme pays tribute to the diverse ethnic communities that call Greater Fort Lauderdale home and to the Mardi Gras/Carnaval season.
Pride Fort Lauderdale kicked off with an all-star fashion show at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood on Thursday, Feb. 21. Hosted by fashion guru Carson Kressley of “Queer Eye” and “Fashion Police” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” all-star Naomi Smalls, the show attracted nearly 1,000 fashionistas.
The Pride Fort Lauderdale parade stepped off on Saturday, Feb. 23, with more than 50,000 people witnessing the very first parade of its kind in Fort Lauderdale history along the beach. A notable parade grand marshal was Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a transgender activist who was in the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village during the historic 1969 police raid that sparked the modern LGBT+ rights movement. WWE superstar and E! “Total Divas” cast member Sonya Deville was featured on a float. Singers Pepper MaShay and Deborah Cooper performed on the Trans Pride and Pride of the Americas floats.
Winners of the parade included: Dillard High School, marching band; Flockfest, walking group; Wilton Manors Police Department, decorated vehicle; iHeart Media / 93.9 MIA, float; and Trans Pride, best interpretation of Carnaval theme. Judges included Stacy Ritter, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau; Ina Lee, Travelhost Media Group; Norm Kent, South Florida Gay News; and Rod Hagwood, South Florida Sun Sentinel.
The festival concluded on Sunday, Feb. 24 with the traditional Pride Fort Lauderdale beach party. “American Idol” fan favorite Ada Vox, who also made history as the first drag queen to advance to the final 10 contestants, and singer, choreographer and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” judge Todrick Hall headlined the festival. Approximately 50,000 people attended the festival.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau has been proactively targeting and welcoming the LGBT+ market since 1996, when it became the first Convention & Visitors Bureau with a gay-centric vacation planner, and dedicated website on a CVB homepage. Since then, the destination has continued to break down barriers and facilitate essential visibility for the LGBT+ community at large. The destination now welcomes 1.5 million LGBT+ travelers annually, spending $1.5 billion. It also features one of the largest Pride Centers in the country, the first and only World AIDS Museum and Education Center, and is home to the Stonewall National Museum & Archives, one of the only permanent spaces in the U.S. devoted to exhibitions relating to LGBT+ history and culture. Most recently, Greater Fort Lauderdale opened the areas first LGBT+ Visitors Center in Wilton Manors.