Jeff Sterling is the managing partner of Sterling Accounting and Sterling Realty. A native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Jeff earned a degree at Indiana University in Fort Wayne.
An active member of the Wilton Manors LGBT community for the past eight years, Jeff serves as president of each non-profit organization that he participates in: the Wilton Manors Entertainment Group Inc., Wilton Manors Development Alliance Inc., Taste of the Island Inc., and Wilton Manors Arts & Entertainment Expo.
The Wilton Manors Entertainment Group Inc (WMEG), the organization producing Fort Lauderdale’s Stonewall Pride again this year, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that is a joint effort between the City of Wilton Manors and the Wilton Manors Development Alliance Inc. WMEG provides resources, guidance and continuity for city sponsored cultural, social and educational events with all funds dedication to its mission to benefit the community of Wilton Manors.
Q: What can we expect from Stonewall Pride 2017?
A: This year’s Stonewall will represent the third year we have organized the event and the third year in over a decade of the event will grow and be financially solvent. The event starts at 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 17 and the setup will be like last year’s event with at least seven large 100 by 40 foot canopies where over 100 vendors will be showcasing their products and services to our community. This year we’ve added lights and large fans to help with the heat. There will be a diverse arrangement of entertainment on at least four stages along Wilton Drive. In addition, each of our 16 bars on the Drive will be offering their own entertainment to add to the mix. We are very lucky in our event that we have so many bars and restaurants along the route that add to the options available to everyone. The parade will be at 4 p.m. this year. We are expecting well over 100 participants this year and the parade will probably last one and a half to two hours. The parade starts on the south end of Drive by Dairy Queen and continues north to Five Points.
Q: Since the Pulse nightclub tragedy in Orlando last year, security at events like these has heightened. What are the challenges, and costs, to secure an LGBT event of this magnitude?
A: The tragedy at Pulse and the ongoing threats LGBT events face around the nation and world has made security a top issue. This year, we have had to delay some expansion plans as we struggle to raise the additional money to cover security. Our security costs that we are responsible for have doubled to over $40,000 and security is also a concern as we look at where items are placed, how we control access and what can be allowed to happen at the event. We will have police from numerous jurisdictions along with support from several federal police agencies on site securing the area, all under the leadership of our Wilton Manors Police Chief. As part of this, the City of Wilton Manors has stepped up and assisted in some of the costs and changes we face. Through city support we have changed all our entrances to heavy water barricades and have placed additional barricades throughout the event to help stop drive-throughs from happening. The City of Wilton Manors police department has done a great job of making sure we have a good, safe time. In addition, we have set up a GoFundMe page online to help diffuse the high cost of security.
Q: The anti-LGBT demeanor of the Trump administration has led to a new level of LGBT activism, including scheduled “Equality Rally” events at more than three dozen cities across the nation (and worldwide) on
June 11. Are you expecting, or hoping for, larger crowds than usual?
A: It is a rough time for our nation as we face constant attacks against marginalized groups. We’ve seen an increase in attendance and interest in last year’s event due to solidarity from the Orlando Pulse nightclub tragedy. We anticipate that this year we will again see that support and increased attendance, as those who thought our fight was done or moving forward are now seeing the need to fight again to keep what we have already gained, and not lose any more ground in our struggle for full equality. We are part of the planning group of the local Equality Rally for Unity & Pride that will be held on June 11, starting at 4 p.m., at Ft Lauderdale’s Huizenga Park, 939 Las Olas Blvd. We consider it our kick-off event for Stonewall Week. We encourage everyone to attend to show our solidarity and send a message to local and national politicians that we will not quietly allow our rights and the rights of other marginalized groups – to be taken away.
Q: How can people participate in Stonewall Pride 2017 if they would like to volunteer, enter the float parade or purchase a booth, for example?
A: We are still open for sponsors, vendors, parade entries, volunteers and financial support. If someone wants to be part of this event they can go to wiltonmanorsstonewall.com and click on the appropriate link. They can also reach out to us at 754-200-2979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What is your hope for Stonewall Pride 2017?
A: This year we have several goals as we are looking forward. One is an increased attendance as we take an event of 30,000 and over the next several years move it to 50,000+. The second is, with the help of the city, to successfully measure the economic impact of the event to meet all the requirements for several grants. We are looking to grow the event by bringing back a huge headliner to showcase and expand the offerings of the event to meet our attendance goals. Finally, and most important of all, everyone has a fun and safe time where they feel free to express who they are and, hopefully, we have encouraged everyone to become more involved in our struggle for equality.
Visit wiltonmanorsstonewall.com for more information. To contribute to the cost of security for the event, go to http://www.gofundme.com/wilton-manors-stonewall-security.