2017-06-15 / Top News

First-ever Naples Pride festival sends ‘We Are ONE’ message

Southwest Florida residents and visitors of all ages and persuasions are invited to the first Naples Pride from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 17, at Cambier Park. The “We Are ONE” theme encourages the community to recognize the importance of equal rights for every individual no matter their gender identity, sexual preference, race, ethnicity or religion.

“Collier County has made great strides in recognizing LGBTQ issues, but there is still a long way to go,” said Cori Craciun, Naples Pride president. “Naples Pride is long overdue.”

Mayor Bill Barnett will kickoff the celebration. The Southwest Florida Gay & Lesbian Chorus, SWFL Burlesque Alliance, folk singer Haris Blackwood, the True Blue Motown Band and others will perform.

Guest speakers will include Abby Wambach and Glennon Doyle Melton. Ms. Wambach is a two-time Olympic gold medalist in soccer, FIFA Women’s World Cup champion and six-time winner of the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year award. Her wife, Ms. Doyle Melton, is a New York Times bestselling author whose memoir, “Love Warrior,” was also an Oprah Winfrey Book Club pick.

More than 40 vendors will sell food, beer and merchandise. Nonprofit organizations serving the LGBTQ community will provide information about their services. The family-friendly event will also have games for children.

Main sponsors include Collier Freedom, the Rainbow Pages, Dr. Clint Potter of AIM Advanced Individualized Medicine and John R. Wood Properties.

To organize Naples Pride, Collier Freedom, a nonprofit, non-partisan grass roots organization that has planned several marches in recent months, enlisted the help of the Rainbow Pages and others involved in the local LGBTQ community. Together they formed the Naples Pride board and set up the Naples Pride nonprofit organization. Among its goals is to raise money to set up an emergency fund for members of the LBGTQ community in critical need.

“Collier Freedom has done so much in the last six months to support equal rights, and I’m glad they recognized the need for a Pride event and took action,” says Michelle Hudson, publisher of the Rainbow Pages. “I’m honored the group asked us to get involved in this historic event. We need more events that celebrate our differences, highlight social issues, combat discrimination and promote unity.”

In addition to Ms. Craciun, Ms. Hudson and Dr. Potter, the inaugural Naple sPride planning committee includes David Sleeper, Carol Collins, K.C. Schulberg, Karynn Cavero, Veronica Schell and Phyllis Andrews.

“We are experiencing a turbulent and arduous time that necessitates more unifying events such as Pride,” Dr. Potter, who serves as the president of Naples Pride, says. “Now more than ever, we need to show respect and compassion for one another.” ¦

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