PHOTOS: Project Pride holds 31st Sarasota Pride, announces merger

ABOVE: Jordan Letschert, Cindy Barnes and Tony Boothby at Sarasota Pride. Photo by Dylan Todd.

SARSASOTA | Project Pride presented the 31st Sarasota Pride Oct. 22 at J.D. Hamel Park, announcing a merger between the two LGBTQ-focused organizations and much more.

Sarasota Pride, Inc. has organized the event for over three decades. Its mission has aligned with Project Pride’s since 2019, when it formed to celebrate, unite and support the LGBTQ community in Sarasota and beyond.

Cindy Barnes, whose involvement with Sarasota Pride began in 2006, has guided the organization through significant growth since 2010. The outgoing president announced the merger while reflecting on her tenure.

“This will be the last Pride put on by Sarasota Pride,” Barnes said. “We have decided to merge with Project Pride to pull all of our forces together. I hope you all will continue to support them just as you have supported us for 30 some odd years and especially for the last 12, since we’ve come out to J.D. Hamill Park.”

Barnes then welcomed Project Pride President Jordan Letschert and Development Chair Tony Boothby. The two surprised her with an award for her years of service.

“Project Pride is beyond thrilled to continue the legacy of what Cindy and Sarasota Pride have done over the last 35 years,” Letschert said. “Cindy, we are beyond thankful for what you’ve done for our community.

“As our board begins to merge with Sarasota Pride to continue this legacy, we want to first acknowledge Cindy with an award from Project Pride,” he continued. “This award is for Cindy for her tireless efforts for the Sarasota community.”

Barnes accepted, thanking the crowd for their years of support. “The only thing I could say, the only reason I’m here, is because of you,” she said. “You continue to come out every year, blow this thing out of the water every year, and I’m so appreciative to you.”

“On behalf of the Project Pride board, and now as well as Sarasota Pride, enjoy the rest of your day and ‘say gay,’” Letschert added, referencing Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, more widely known as “Don’t Say Gay or Trans.” The crowd obliged.

The event marked the first Sarasota Pride since Jan. 2020, having skipped 2021 due to the pandemic. “I think people are itching to get back to it; we had such a great turnout in 2020,” Barnes told Watermark ahead of time. “We’re hoping for another beautiful day this year.”

Attendees got exactly that. Project Pride maintained the celebration’s Kids’ Zone, featuring a 40-foot slide and other activities, and over 50 vendors and a wide array of entertainers kept the large crowd captivated from 12-5 p.m.

Sarasota entertainer Lindsay Carlton-Cline emceed the event, welcoming fellow drag icons from throughout the region like Grandma Pearl. Diversity: The Voices of Sarasota, Divine AF, Karmic Tattoo and others provided live music.

Barnes left Sarasota Pride with a final thought. “I love, love, love the city of Sarasota and I love our LGBTQ community,” she said. “We’re in a fight for our lives again and November is a voting month. Get out there and vote.”

Watermark was proud to sponsor and celebrate Sarasota Pride. View our photos below.

Photos by Dylan Todd.

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