Crowds Brave the Heat for Polk Pride

As her brother danced by the stage, Callie Weeks, 7, watched the drag revue under the shade of a tree with her parents while enjoying her rainbow stick candy. It was her first time at Polk Pride.

While The Downtown Farmers Curb Market was in full swing and with an Amtrak train rolling by as a backdrop, Pride in the Park capped off Polk Pride 2019’s week of events Saturday at Munn Park and featured a drag show, food trucks and live music.

According to Scott Guira, founder of Polk Pride, thousands of visitors were expected at Munn Park in the finale of the weeklong schedule of events from June 8-15 celebrating the local LGBT+ community.

Friends greeted each other by saying “Happy Pride,” and more than a hundred vendor booths offered their services and wares, such as Atta Boy Animal Care, Honeychild Sweets, Mud and Glass Studios and Ark Animal Hospital.

Guira said the festival has grown significantly since it started five years ago. Perhaps it’s the emphasis on making sure the whole family is welcome and invited, he speculated.

Members of the audience enjoyed the cooling mist from the fountain while watching the drag revue. Julie Butterfield

Adam and Cristy Hartley brought their two daughters, Savannah, 6, and Emily, 13, to Polk Pride 2019.

“We think it’s important to bring the kids and support the people in the community,” Adam said

Emily, wearing several colorful beaded necklaces, said the festival is about showing up. “It’s just fun to see this kind of stuff where people can be themselves without being judged,” she said.

With the promise of a bigger and longer parade next year, there was one small parade before the drag show, in which about 35 people marched in front of the crowd, waving a multi-colored parachute.

Performer Trishelle Michaels took the stage before the drag show to empathize with those who might be feeling the heat. “Now imagine five pair of pantyhose, a bodysuit and a wig,” she said to laughs.

Callie, whose family traveled from Winter Haven for the event, said she’d definitely want to come to Polk Pride again next year.

She said the attraction for her includes, not only the music and the candy, but “cuz I really like it!”

Lakeland Youth Alliance and PFLAG of Polk County are the hosts of Polk Pride 2019.

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