The Wilton Manors Stonewall Festival, taking place this Saturday, June 18, is more than just the city's signature summer event. The festival and parade are held to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of June 28, 1969, one of the first demonstrations for LGBT rights, when patrons of the Stonewall Bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village protested police harassment.
As a sign of how far the civil rights of LGBT individuals have progressed, the City of Wilton Manors closes down its main street, Wilton Drive, for the celebration. As stated on the city of Wilton Manors’ official website, “The City of Wilton Manors is a place where diversity is not tolerated, but embraced.”
The march goes on, no matter what, but event organizers and the city have beefed up security after the Orlando nightclub shooting in the early hours of June 12.
The event is more than a festival; it’s a pop-up village celebration, drawing a diverse crowd of LGBT residents and visitors as well as their allies, neighbors, and government officials working the crowds. The parade, street vendors, and live performances offer something for everyone, and admission is free. In addition to performers on three stages providing entertainment throughout the day, food trucks, drink stations, stages, and booths featuring vendors and nonprofit organizations line the main thoroughfare.
“The Wilton Manors Stonewall Festival is about one thing – equality,” said Wilton Manors Mayor Gary Resnick. “In the wake of this massacre, we are reminded that our community must remain strong and promote equality for all. Wilton Manors is not just a physical address; we are the heart and soul of the LGBT community.”
Now in its 17th year, the festival runs from 11 a.m. through 3 p.m. The community-wide event draws 20,000 to 30,000 people. Last year the City of Wilton Manors took over and has hired an event management company, Wilton Manors Entertainment Group, to run the event.
By late afternoon, the streets are cleared, the stages are dismantled and, as the sun begins to set, a star-studded parade featuring local community heroes, dignitaries, and organizations steps off from Fort Lauderdale High School, just across the Middle River from Wilton Manors. Starting at 6 p.m., the colorful floats and joyous revelers parade up Wilton Drive one mile to the street’s northern terminus at Five Points. Thousands come out to watch and cheer the floats and groups as they strut their stuff. The parade lasts about two hours.
Afterward, everyone retires to the many bars and restaurants that line Wilton Drive, with the majority congregating in the parking lot of the Shoppes of Wilton Manors mall (2262 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors), which is turned into a giant dance party until the wee hours of the morning.
The 2016 Wilton Manors Stonewall Parade & Street Festival takes place from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday, June 18, along Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors. Admission is free. There will be limited public parking available in the city and public lots for $15 – cash only. Parking can be found at:
- Eighth Terrace Lot, NE Eighth Terrace and NE 26th Street
- Fort Lauderdale High School, 1600 NE Fourth Ave.
- Municipal Complex, 2100 N. Dixie Highway
- Richardson Park, 1937 Wilton Drive