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Manatee Pride, first after Pulse nightclub shooting, set to be ‘bigger’ and ‘better’

Manatee Pride promises a dazzling good time.

“There’s lots of rainbows and sparkles and happy faces and dancing and music and fun and laughter for the whole family,” Prism Youth Initiative board president and event coordinator Valerie Fisher said.

Fisher hopes the fourth annual Manatee Pride festival, set for Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. at the Bradenton Riverwalk, will be a record-breaker, as it’s the fundraiser for the LGBTQ — which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning — youth organization, netting about $10,000 each year.

During an organizational meeting just before the event to dot the I’s and cross the T’s, coordinators squeezed themselves among stuffed boxes and banners in the small headquarters of the rainbow-decorated Prism Youth Initiative. A stark pre-dawn call time will bring workers and volunteers to start setting up at Riverwalk. A lively lineup of bands, DJs and drag queens will keep the momentum up as Darwin Brewing Co.’s specialty guava-flavored Manatee Pride beer will be served.

A wide range of vendors will set up booths, representing groups like the Community AIDS Network for HIV testing, ALSO Youth, the Harvey Milk Festival and the Flamingo Resort, an LGBT hotel in St. Petersburg. Fisher added that booths for various animal rescues, makeup and skincare and a chiropractor are planned for the event, and he predicts about 1,500 attendees.

Funds generated from the event will go toward the youth organization for field trips, food, scholarships and other needs.

Last year rain put a damper on the event, but this year calls for warmth and sunshine.

“It’s going to be bigger. It’s going to be better,” Fisher said.

But as the first pride event since the Pulse nightclub shooting, which claimed the lives of 49 people and injured many others in June 2016 — also the month of many pride events across the country — something else will be a little different.

While a banner will commemorate the men and women who died in the early hours of June 12, unlike past Manatee Pride events six local Christian churches will join for a short interfaith service will open the festivities.

“I know that may be different than many of the other prides,” Fisher said. “I myself am happy to have a blessing on our community that is going to start our event.”

Hannah Morse: 941-745-7055, @mannahhorse

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