In previous years, Gainesville Pride hosted a parade in addition to the festival. This year, the parade will not occur. (Erin Cho/WUFT News)

Pride festivals returning to north central Florida

By and

After a two-year, pandemic-induced hiatus, both the Ocala and Gainesville Pride festivals are coming back.

Ocala’s Pride celebration will be held Saturday, Oct. 8, in Ocala’s Downtown Historic Square. The event begins at 10 a.m., and it includes drag performances, local bands and artists, food trucks, face painting and other vendors. All planned entertainment is family-friendly.

Ocala Pride has also announced that there will be extra security in place, including security officers, city police and park rangers, at this year’s Pride festival. Additional information and directions can be found on the event Facebook page.

The Gainesville Pride festival will take place at Bo Diddley Plaza in downtown Gainesville on Saturday, Oct. 22. The event will feature entertainment highlighting local LGBTQ+ performers, activities for all ages and a variety of vendors. It is free and open to the public.

The festival, which is planned, organized and staffed by volunteers, is also an opportunity for members of the LGBTQ+ community to stand up for themselves after the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida was vandalized recently.

“Gainesville Pride is a time for the local LGBTQ+ community and our allies to come together in celebration. But it’s also a time to defy demands that we hide, or even cease to be, who we are,” said Pride Center president Tamára Perry-Lunardo.

On Sept. 24, Pride Center employees learned that someone had vandalized the office, which is located at 3131 NW 13th St, breaking the glass front door and shattering a floor-to-ceiling window. The attack left broken glass, rocks and dirt in the center’s main office area. A hateful message was also left at the center.

“Attacks from those who are threatened by the equality of others mean to push us further into the margins of society and to quiet our voices,” Perry-Lunardo said. “So we are unequivocal in our message: We will not be erased; we will not be changed; we will not be silent; we will not be ashamed.”

The festival will run from noon to 8 p.m. on Oct. 22, but Pride Days events will also be held on several Sundays throughout the month.

On Oct. 16, the center is hosting a “Spirit of Pride” Community Awards Dinner to honor community members who have supported and contributed to the LGBTQ+ community. The event features Equality Florida’s Director of Transgender Equality Nikole Parker as the keynote speaker. Tickets are $65.28 and can be purchased on the website.

The center is also holding a Gainesville Pride Brunch on Sunday, October 23, at the Paramount Grill. Tickets for the two-course brunch are $33.46 and can also be purchased on the website.

For more information, email pccncf@gainesvillepride.org or check the center’s website gainesvillepride.org.

About Grace Banahan

Grace is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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