Miami is a year-round hotbed for queer culture, with events catering to LGBTQ people and their friends and allies from the beach to the mainland. There are drag brunches and gender-blending dance parties and everything in between. But during the first week of April, Miami Beach becomes the Magic City's gay center of gravity with the arrival of its annual Pride Festival.
Based in Lummus Park and the Art Deco Historic District in South Beach, Miami Beach Pride hosted its eleventh festival and parade this weekend, with two days of free concerts and activations including Sunday performances by Tito Puente Jr. and Icona Pop.
Growing from 40,000 attendees in 2011 to more than 145,000 in 2018, Pride has become a major draw for revelers from all walks of life and across the globe. Beyond the weekend's flagship Pride festival and parade, other highlights from the sanctioned events included the Ultimate Miami Drag Queen at Magic City Casino, with the $5,000 grand prize taken home by Karla Croqueta, and a Sunday sunset dance party on the Bayside docks at the Standard Hotel.
Sunday's main event, the parade, kicked off at noon and stretched the length of Ocean Drive between Fifth and 15th Streets. With the road closed to traffic, sidewalks on either side were jam-packed with people celebrating South Florida's LGBTQ communities.
The crowd was a sea of multicolored wigs, rainbow flags, and whistles blowing in unison with the loud dance music pulsing from parade floats. Some wore hot shorts or fishnets, while others came out in full costume, dressed up as flamboyant fairies or neon superheroes. There was also no shortage of families and children decked out in Pride swag and graphic tees proclaiming "Love Wins."
The parade floats were a mix of corporate sponsors and recognizable city institutions. Among the more memorable floats were iconic gay nightclub Twist's disco-themed float with performances of Village People's "Y.M.C.A." and the Gender Blender/Counter Corner/Double Stubble/Kill Your Idol float with appearances from a couple of Miami's hardest-working queens, Shelley Novak and Queef Latina.
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Various groups and cultural organizations also showed their support by walking through the parade holding up their country's flags decked out in rainbow stripes, and banners proudly proclaiming "My kid breaks gender stereotypes with style" and "Love is love." American Airlines' float with a lone DJ and branded airplane tail was among the least impressive floats on display.
Back at the Standard Sunday party co-hosted by local artist collective (F)empower and NY drag queen Rify Royalty, many guests both local and out of town opted to skip the parade altogether. New Yorkers commented on the sheer scale of their city's World Pride spanning the entire month of June in comparison to Miami's fest, and others noted Miami Beach's parade could use more creativity in designing and executing its floats.
Nonetheless, Miami Beach Pride continues to grow year after year, so much so that this year, Wynwood is launching its own Pride festival from June 21 to 23 at the Wynwood Marketplace.