WILTON MANORS – Huddled under a tent with her partner, Donna Fearon was determined not to let rain spoil her fun at the Stonewall Street Festival on Sunday.

She came out to celebrate gay and lesbian pride. In the 30 years she has lived in the region, there has been a lot of progress, she said.

“People are feeling more open to be themselves and show affection,” Fearon said. “There’s no gawking. Pretty soon there will be no need for gay clubs. Everyone will be together.”

Fearon was among thousands who braved heavy downpours and strong winds to come out to this weekend’s ninth Stonewall Street Festival in Wilton Manors. For the first time, the festival was a two-day event, with a parade along Wilton Drive on Saturday night and a community festival with an array of vendors and entertainment on Sunday.

Bobby Kyser, one of the organizers, said over the two days the event drew close to 40,000 people. The rain didn’t curtail any of the festivities.

“I come for the camaraderie,” said Jonathan Winters, of Wilton Manors, a masseuse and kickboxer who tries to attend every year.

The festival marks the anniversary of the June 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City. After Judy Garland died, some members of the gay community met at the Stonewall Inn in New York City to mourn the loss of an icon. Police raided the bar and the patrons fought back over three days of rioting. The riots served to galvanize the gay community, said Bill Greeves, with the Stonewall Library and Archives in Fort Lauderdale.

“We were just damn mad and not going to take it anymore,” he said about the discrimination then.

On Sunday it was like a reunion. Families clogged the street with strollers and shared hugs and updates with their friends.

“I like the fact that there are so many babies,” said Holley Mosley, of Fort Lauderdale. Mosley and her partner brought their 2-week-old son, Thomas, to the festival.

In addition to the small-business vendors and community outreach organizations, political candidates were out in full force, with rainbow buttons and the word “pride” all over their literature.

“I know some of the politicians here aren’t gay,” said Chris Hassett, of Fort Lauderdale. “But at least they came. At least they know we exist.”

Georgia East can be reached at 954-356-4629 or geast@sun-sentinel.com.


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