Manatee County, just south of Tampa, will have a reason to be proud this year as the Prism Youth Initiative organization ushers in the very first Manatee Pride. This celebration will be held on the Riverwalk in downtown Bradenton on Saturday, March 22, from noon to 4 p.m.

Over 1,000 spectators are expected to attend the event, which will include local vendors, gourmet food trucks, live music, and other forms of entertainment. It is the brainchild of Shannon Summers, the executive director of Prism Youth Initiative. She started Prism in 2010 to provide services and support to LGBT youth, ages 13 to 23, in Manatee County. Proceeds raised at Manatee Pride will benefit Prism’s youth services.

Summers told 24-hour news channel Bay News 9 that she dreamed up Manatee Pride because she felt that LGBT people didn’t have enough support in the local community. To her surprise, she found that there may have been more support than she had previously thought. For example, last October the Bradenton City Council unanimously approved her request to use the Riverwalk for Manatee Pride.

Local sponsors include Macy’s, Tropicana, Manatee County GLBTA Democrats, The Bradenton Herald, Bright House Networks, Tech House IT Consulting Solutions, Joe Cool Air Conditioning and Heating, Logistics Asset Corporation, Freedom Assist Technologies, and Fifth Third Bank.

I had the opportunity to speak with organizer Shannon Summers in an exclusive Hotspots interview.

Has everyone been supportive of a gay pride celebration coming to Bradenton?

They have. I have not received one negative phone call or e-mail or anything. It’s been great.

How did the idea for Manatee Pride come about?

The entity behind the Pride celebration is Prism Youth Initiative, the LGBT youth organization I founded three and a half years ago. After all those years of serving the community, I thought that we needed to throw a pride to let the kids know that there is a community here that they can be a part of. Everyone is welcome of course, but the important message is that people are not alone here.

What will be different about this Pride celebration that would set it apart from St. Petersburg or Sarasota?

I think it’s going to be very similar to Sarasota. We’re going to have sponsors and vendors and food trucks and beverages for sale. We’re going to have youth performances, such as an ensemble percussion group…we’ll also have an 18-year-old singer performing a couple of numbers and he is just fabulous. So that aspect is different from Sarasota, and we’re not going to have a parade the first time out like St. Pete.


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