Love won Saturday in Bradenton.
There was dancing. Hugs and smiles were exchanged. And the Darwin Brewing Co.’s specialty guava-flavored Manatee Pride beer was flowing — good to the last drop.
Showing her pride was important to Chelsea Jones, 23, who went to the festival by herself on Saturday. But she was all smiles.
“I came to show my pride,” Jones said. “My girlfriend is at work, so I’m showing support for both of us.”
Jones, a Bradenton resident, had never attended Manatee Pride.
“I’ve been to other pride events before, but this is great,” Jones said.
Close to an estimated 4,000 people attended the fourth annual Manatee Pride festival at the Bradenton Riverwalk that provided an afternoon jam-packed with live bands, a DJ, drag queens, food and beer to keep the love and good times flowing.
Turnout was “beyond our wildest expectations,” said Valerie Fisher, Prism Youth Initiative board president and event coordinator. The estimated 4,000 who attended far surpassed the 1,500 attendees they were hoping for.
Prism, a Bradenton nonprofit that provides services for young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, as well as those who may be questioning their gender identity or sexual preferences, organizes the annual festival.
“Everybody was happy,” Fisher said smiling, her own face adorned with sparkles. “It was a great day in the park, lots of rainbows, hugs and smiles.”
Manatee Pride began the afternoon festivities with an interfaith service. Saturday’s event marked the organization’s first pride event since the Pulse nightclub shooting, where 49 people were shot dead and many others were injured in June 2016.
“We’re so happy everybody came out and had a good time,” Fisher said.
The event featured 50 vendors selling various products or offering services. One vendor came as far as Atlanta, Fisher said.
Darwin’s Manatee Pride beer was so popular, it was sold out.
Juan Delgado Jr., 32, was enjoying Manatee Pride to the very end.
It was his first time at the festival, but he came with his sister, her girlfriend and his niece to show support, he said.
“I’ve been to the prides festival in St. Pete with my wife before,” Delgado said. “I liked this one, the music and the beer. The atmosphere was nice.”