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Wilton Manors gay-pride fest aims to appeal to all

BY GREG LINCH, glinch@MiamiHerald.com

With brightly colored, illuminated floats and a milelong avenue of vendors, one South Florida group wants to make Wilton Drive ''Sizzling With Pride'' this weekend.

That's the theme of Pride of Greater Fort Lauderdale's ninth annual Stonewall Street Festival, which kicks off Saturday in Wilton Manors. The weekend's events are geared toward people of all backgrounds, not just members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

''Our goal is to bring everyone together and celebrate,'' said Pride chairman Bobby Kyser. ``The mission is to have a positive image of the GLBT [people] in our community.''

Nicki E. Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, will be the grand marshal and ''honorary diva'' of the festival's first-ever night parade, which begins at 8 p.m. Saturday. She will also receive the keys to the city of Wilton Manors for her support of the local gay community.

In addition to the more than 20 floats featuring everything from choreographed dance routines to fireworks, a number of musical performances are planned. Singers Crystal Waters, Tammy Wright and Martha Luizza are set to appear, along with DJs Joe Bermudez, Tracy Young and Ryan Morales.

Vendor spots are sold out along the milelong stretch of Wilton Drive and organizers expect a good turnout.

Promotion for the festivities has increased threefold since last year, Kyser said. He estimates that more than 25,000 visitors will flood the street the first day, with 20,000-plus expected Sunday.

''Based on the website hits and phone calls coming in, it's going to be massive,'' he said.

The annual festival is held in honor of the 1969 riots between members of the GLBT community and police in New York City, regarded as the beginning of the modern GLBT rights movement.

Roughly one million gay visitors contributed more than $1 billion to the Greater Fort Lauderdale area's economy in 2007, according to the visitors bureau. A total of about 11 million visitors spend nearly $9 billion each year.

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