Harvey Milk Festival set for Sarasota

The three-day event honors the human rights pioneer with film, art and music

mclear@bradenton.comMay 15, 2014 

More than 5,000 people attended last year's Harvey Milk Festival in Sarasota. PHOTO PROVIDED

Harvey Milk lived in San Francisco, and died 36 years ago.

This weekend, thousands of people will gather in Sarasota to celebrate his birthday.

The fifth annual Harvey Milk Festival encompasses film, art and music in a three-day tribute to America's first openly gay politician, who was assassinated in 1978.

"We get a very diverse crowd," said Shannon Fortner, the founder and president of the festival. "We started as a one-day festival and we got about 1,200 people. We had about 5,500 last year. This year we're hoping to get 6,000."

This year's festival kicks off today with a screening of "Dog," a new documentary about John Wojtowicz, the real-life bank robber who inspired Al Pacino's character in "Dog Day Afternoon."

The film screens at Burns Court Cinema. Tickets are $10.

All the other events in the festival are free, Fortner said.

On Friday, the Harvey Milk Festival will host "Love Without Limits," a visual art exhibit featuring works by area artists who explore ideas involving diversity and acceptance.

The festival's most popular event comes on Saturday at Five Points Park, with a more than nine hours of free live music.

The headliners are Ghost Eyes, a New York City duo that performs what they call "tropical grit pop." They're slated to take the stage at 11:10 p.m.

Local favorites MeteorEYES (of which Fortner is a member), Slow Magic, a masked DJ who recently performed at Coachella and SXSW; and quirky duo Hymn for Her are also one the lineup.

The day gets started with opening ceremonies featuring Sarasota City Commissioner Suzanne Atwell. Gina Duncan of Equality Florida is the keynote speaker at 6:10 p.m., and a candlelight vigil honoring Milk is scheduled for 9:15-9:30 p.m.

Donations are welcome, and they can be made either on site or through the festival's website (harveymilkfestival.com).

Fortner said donations have helped the festival break even, and last year they ended up with a small surplus that to secure Five Points Park for this year.

Volunteers are still needed. Anyone interested can volunteer on the website, or just talk to a festival official on site.

Details: May 15-17, Five Points Park, 100 Central Ave., Sarasota, and other locations. Tickets: Free ($10 for Thursday's film). Information: harveymilkfestival.com.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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