The Sunshine State is known for its beautiful weather, kind and generous people, white sandy beaches, and unforgettable nightlife and parties. There are so many things going on here that it might be hard for you to keep up with everything! I’ve come to the rescue with a comprehensive list of can’t miss gay-related events this year.
Pride Celebrations, Festivals and Parties
Over 100,000 people attended Miami Beach Gay Pride last year, making it the most-attended LGBT pride celebration in South Florida. This year pride weekend is April 10-12, culminating in a parade along Ocean Drive. Broward County is home to such a large gay community that there are two pride celebrations. The first is Pride Fort Lauderdale, which will consist of a parade and a festival across two days: February 28 and March 1. The second, Stonewall Summer Pride, also lasts two days, and will bring thousands to Wilton Manors. Those celebrations will be happening June 22 and 23. Pridefest of Lake Worth and the Palm Beaches is the pride celebration for Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, and attracts over 15,000 people. It will be held on March 28 and 29 this year.
Come Out with Pride Orlando has grown over the past decade to become one of the biggest prides in the Southeast. Central Florida will enjoy an entire week of events in the first half of
October. St. Pete Pride debuted their pride parade at night last year to rave reviews. This year the celebrations will last three days, June 26-28, and if last year is any indication, the parade will be held that Saturday night, with a festival on Sunday in the morning and afternoon. After a 15-year absence, Tampa Pride is returning with a parade and festival in Ybor City. Both of those will be on March 28.
A slew of pride celebrations happen in the autumn months of September and October. Space Coast Pride in Brevard County will be September 26. Sarasota Pride will be held at J.D. Hamel Park on October 17. Gainesville, Jacksonville, Ocala, and Volusia County will all be celebrating pride in October. Lakeland and Key West will be celebrating in June, with the latter having established firm dates for 2015: June 10-14.
Celebrate Orgullo celebrates the Latin LGBT community in South Florida and will be held this
year in Miami Beach on October 3. Miami Beach Bruthaz is a celebration of pride for the black community and will occur this year from July 16-19. Then of course there’s a special weekend for the bears, who converge on Fort Lauderdale Beach for BeachBear Weekend. That special weekend will be May 6-11 this year. Other bear pride events include the Orlando Bear Bash, which will be held this year from September 22-27, followed by the Bear Bust at Parliament House in Orlando in the middle of October.
Who can forget Gay Days and Gay Disney Week in Orlando? The 25th anniversary of the beloved event will be held from June 2-8 this year. You definitely can’t miss the One Magical
Weekend dances and parties, which are held during Gay Days/Gay Disney Week. Gay Days Fort Lauderdale was a success this past year and will be back this year during the Thanksgiving holiday.
Music and dance reign supreme in South Florida in March with the arrival of three popular celebrations: the Winter Party Festival, the Winter Music Conference and the Ultra Music Festival. The Winter Party Festival benefits the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and will be held this year from March 4-9. The Winter Music Conference is celebrating 30 year this year and comes your way March 24-28. The Ultra Music Festival will be held around the same time, across three days, from March 27-29.
Equality Florida Galas
Equality Florida works tirelessly to further LGBT rights in the state of Florida, and they also ensure people faced with discrimination can receive justice and regain their dignity. Equality
Florida’s galas raise money for the organization and also recognize inspiring voices for equality in our community. The Palm Beach Gala will be held at the home of James Tigani and Mark Bennett on February 12. Following that is the Tampa Gala on February 21; it will be held at TPepin’s Hospitality Centre. The Miami Gala will be held at the Pérez Art Museum on March 15. The Key West Gala will take place at the Gardens Hotel on March 28. There are three more galas in spring: the Tallahassee Gala at Mission San Luis on April 10, the Gainesville Gala at the Thomas Center on May 1, and the St. Petersburg Gala at the Mahaffey Theater on May 29.
Venues and dates haven’t been selected yet for the remaining galas, but keep them in mind anyway. The Jacksonville Gala should be held the final week in September, the Orlando, Broward and Sarasota Galas will be held in November, and the galas for the Upper Keys and Fort Myers will close out the year in December.
Local Events, Galas and Mixers
The HIV/AIDS service organizations across the state of Florida couldn’t do their job as well as they do without help from the community. White Party Week, in late November, is a large fundraiser for Care Resource. The SMART Ride, also in November, raises money for quite a few HIV/AIDS service organizations in Florida. Dining Out for Life, in late April, raises money for a number of organizations in South and Central Florida, such as Broward House, AIDS Service
Organization of Pinellas, and Miracle of Love. Spirit of Hope Receptions raise money for Broward House four times a year: the next one will be on February 12 at Greenbar & Kitchen in Fort Lauderdale. The Hope and Help Center of Central Florida’s signature event is the Headdress Ball, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. This year’s event will be held in September. Metro Wellness and Community Centers’ largest fundraiser is the Wild Gala, which is also held in September. AIDS Service Association of Pinellas benefits greatly from Dining Out for Life and also from the Red Ribbon Dance, which is held at the end of July.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the various AIDS Walks that raise money for all of the organizations listed, plus many more. AIDS Service Organization of Pinellas benefits from the AIDS Walk Tampa Bay (September, around Labor Day) and the Santa Speedo Run (early
December). AIDS Walk Orlando benefits Hope and Help and will be held this year on March 28. AIDS Walk Miami benefits Care Resource and will be held this year on April 26. The Florida AIDS Walk and Music Festival on Fort Lauderdale Beach is held each March and benefits a number of organizations such as Broward House, The Pride Center at Equality Park, SunServe, Latinos Salud, and others. Another organization that holds an annual fundraiser walk/run is the Zebra Coalition, which helps homeless LGBT youth in Central Florida. Their Zebra Run always occurs the Saturday morning of Come Out with Pride Orlando parade and festival.
The Pride Center at Equality Park is supported in part by donors called the Founders Circle, who hold receptions and mixers each month. The Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of
Commerce hosts “spotlight mixers” and the Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce’s Gay and Lesbian Business Exchange (GLBX) host similar mixers. Compass, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Palm Beach County, hosts Pride Business Alliance mixers on the fourth Wednesday of every month. The Metropolitan Business Association of Orlando (MBA) and the Tampa Bay Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce host monthly dinners.
Awards season is year-round, as MBA Orlando hosts the Pride in Business Awards in late
April, the Tampa Bay Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce hosts the Diamond Awards on January 17, and the Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce hosts the Emerald Gala in late June. The LGBT Visitor Center of Miami hosts the Pink Flamingo Awards every September. SAVE will be recognizing their Champions of Equality in early May, and their up-and-coming Luminaries of Equality in September.
Community centers and other service organizations hold galas to raise money to further their good works in the community at large. The GLBT Community Center of Central Florida’s Black and White Gala is held in Orlando the first week of October. Compass’s Stonewall Ball is held the last weekend of every June in West Palm Beach, with that specific date
commemorating the Stonewall Riots of 1969. The Cocktails for Compass event is another large fundraiser for the organization and is held in Palm Beach in the middle of December. Pridelines Youth Services presents their annual Masquerade Ball each August. The Pride Center at Equality Park‘s fundraiser, Evening in Paradise, is traditionally held in late February. A funny send-off on the Latin “coming of age” ceremony benefits SunServe; Julian Cavazos’ Reverse Quinceañera has been held for the last few years every September. The Tampa Museum of Art holds their Pride & Passion fundraiser in mid-May each year, and the event, well-attended by the LGBT community, is the unofficial “start” of six weeks of pride celebrations in Tampa Bay. The SAVE Halloween Ball occurs in the last week of October every year and serves as a fundraiser to help further equality and unity in Miami-Dade County.
The Leather Masked Ball, organized by the Leather Men’s Brotherhood, raises money to give back to the community. Held every Thanksgiving weekend at Bill’s Filling Station, the Leather Masked Ball raises thousands of dollars, which are given to a variety of local and national charities. Likewise, Wicked Manors, held every Halloween night on Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors, helps raise donations for The Pride Center at Equality Park.
Film Festivals and Concerts
If you love films, you’ll love the film festivals in Florida, because all of the award-winning independent favorites are screened here. The Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival starts off the year with dozens of critically acclaimed LGBT films. This year it will be held from April 24-
May 3. The Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival celebrated 25 years last year, and many national and international celebrities arrive on the red carpet to attend the premieres of their films. Expect a week of movies coming to Tampa Bay the first week of October. The Fort Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is one of the largest in the Southeast, with over 100 films screening over two weekends. This year the festival will start on October 9. Finally, there is the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, which screens all of the hottest independent films in all genres in both Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood. This festival spans across two weeks in the middle of November.
Quite a few talented performers of interest to the gay community will be traveling to Florida this year. Matthew Lombardo’s South Beach Broadway Series will be bringing three Tony and
Grammy Award winners to the Colony Theatre South Beach: Linda Eder (January 30-31), Betty Buckley (February 27-28), and Billy Porter (March 20-21). The Broward Center‘s annual Broadway Series, hosted by Seth Rudetsky, will be bringing three singers and actors to Fort Lauderdale: Audra McDonald (January 8), Cheyenne Jackson (February 14), and Sutton Foster (March 20). Broadway sensation Idina Menzel will be making three stops on her world tour this summer: July 25 in Orlando at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, July 26 in Boca Raton at the Mizner Park Amphitheater, and July 28 in Clearwater at Ruth Eckerd Hall.
The incomparable Bette Midler will be starting her new national tour on May 8 at Hard Rock Live Hollywood. She’ll also be making a stop in Tampa at the Amalie Arena on May 11.
Another singer who will be making her mark on Florida is Boca Raton native Ariana Grande, who will be in Orlando at the Amway Center on March 26 and in Miami at the AmericanAirlines Arena on March 28. Other pop acts coming to Florida this year include Maroon 5 (February 24 and 25), Iggy Azalea (May 15 and 16), Lana Del Rey (June 16), and Taylor Swift (October 27 and 31).