June is Pride Month. It’s a time when the LGBTQ community celebrates its achievements and contributions to the world. And community members in Southwest Florida came together to celebrate their pride this weekend.
The Naples Pride 2019 festival was held at Cambier Park in downtown Naples Saturday. Organizers said donations from this year’s festival will go toward opening a Naples Pride center for community resources and education to help others.
“It’s so important for young people in Southwest Florida to have this event because it just shows that there is love and acceptance everywhere,” said Alyssa Sobota with Gartner.
The third annual Naples Pride festival brought vendors, drag queens, educational speaker and donations to promote equality.
“This may be a place where it’s a little easier to see that there are people you can relate to,” Brian Riggins said.
The festival’s theme this year was “We Are Love.”
“I just like to be around the other people in a very open-minded environment,” Riggins said.
Vendors like Heather Kearney said this year’s crowd will far surpass the more than 5,000 people who attended last year’s pride fest.
“It’s becoming more and more popular,” Kearney said. “Not only with the gay community but with their families and their friends, their children. There is something here for everyone.”
Co-workers are also tagging along to join the celebration. Alyssa Sobota started a pride group for Gartner, a major employer of young adults in Southwest Florida. Sobota said the sense of community and donations to Naples Pride are critical for groups like Gartner.
“So whenever you come to Southwest Florida, you know that if you need someone to talk to, you have somewhere to reach out to and get the support that you want,” Sobota said.
Naples Pride also has the advantage of giving emergency financial help to several Collier County LGBTQ people in a crisis situation because of the proceeds from the event in 2018.
For Christine Lee, the day for the festival had a special significance because it’s the fiftieth anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots. And it was her first time back at a pride event.
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“At 29, that was my first pride event, but I’m sure if I was younger and I had the opportunity on these kinds of occasions, it would’ve been much more easier for me,” Lee said. “So I think it’s a beautiful blessing.”