ALSO Youth presents 7th Manatee Pride

ABOVE: Manatee Pride 2019. Photo by Dylan Todd.

BRADENTON, Fla. | Manatee Pride will return for its seventh celebration March 5 from 12-5 p.m. at the Bradenton Riverwalk, its first event in nearly two years due to COVID-19.

Traditionally a fundraiser for Prism Youth Initiative, the gathering will mark the first time Manatee Pride benefits new presenter ALSO Youth. The nonprofits merged in 2020, news they had planned to share during that year’s cancelled celebration.

ALSO Youth has worked to create inclusive communities in and around Sarasota for 30 years. The merger allowed the organization to reach more youth than ever before by expanding into Manatee County, where it now offers programming for local LGBTQ youth via drop-in centers and more.

“Manatee Pride will be similar and different,” says ALSO Youth Secretary Craig Kaplan, who also chairs the event. “It will fund programming in our Manatee County center as well as ALSO Youth in Sarasota.

“We’re trying to expand our reach in Manatee County,” he continues. “Prism Youth always had a following and the pandemic took a toll on a lot of kids. They weren’t able to get out for a long time, so we see Manatee Pride and our mission as more important than ever.”

That mission is an ever-expanding one of advocacy, leadership, support and outreach. Traditionally the organization served youth ages 13-24 but launched ALSO, Jr. last year in support of those from 10-12. Programs and services include counseling, other large events like an LGBTQ prom and much more.

“The last two years have been so hard on not just the adults but the children as well,” Kaplan explains. He says in addition to isolation from COVID-19, legislation like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill has impacted youth.

“It trickles down to them,” he says. “It’s been a challenge and so we want to provide a safe, fun time for both kids and adults. We’re excited to have something to celebrate.”

Festivities will begin promptly at 12 p.m. with hostess Beneva Fruitville. The fan favorite entertainer will guide attendees through a full day of entertainment, which includes performances from fellow drag performers Rockell Blu, Alexis De La Mer and Evonka Rump as well as more live entertainment from Moxy Stardust, DJ Brianna, The Players Center, the Players Kids and even ALSO Youth itself.

“Having been a part of Manatee Pride since its inception, it’s so wonderful to be back hosting,” Fruitville says. “We’re going to have fabulous friends and the incredible community supporting our youth and celebrating our unity and pride!”

In addition to entertainment, attendees will also have access to more than 50 local vendors. Participants include community and faith-based organizations, artisans and businesses, including those offering a variety of food and beverages options.

ALSO Youth is grateful to have received community support as Manatee Pride makes its return, Kaplan stresses, including from major sponsors. They include CAN Community Health, Church of the Trinity, Regions Bank, Tropicana, Watermark and more.

“This is really all about welcoming friends and supporters for a full day of entertainment, support and positive reinforcement,” Kaplan says. “We’re excited to provide that for the kids and their advocates.”

The 7th annual Manatee Pride will be held March 5 from 12-5 p.m. For more information, visit

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