LAKELAND, Fla. — Polk Pride concluded its fifth annual weeklong Pride celebration Saturday with a festival in Lakeland’s Munn Park. Organizers called this year's celebration the best in its history.
- Polk Pride now in 5th year
- 100 vendors in Munn Park included healthcare, churches, support groups
- Follow Polk Pride on Facebook
- More Good News stories
"Pride in the Park" featured several performances, including a drag show, and around 100 vendors throughout the park. The vendors ranged from healthcare, churches, support groups, political organizations and veterans affairs.
The theme this year was “Rise Up” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, considered the beginning of the LGBT+ rights movement.
Cheryl Whittington came with her wife for their third year.
“Today is wonderful," Whittington said. "It’s a much bigger turnout. There’s a lot of resource vendors here, which is really great to see supporting the gay community, supporting the young gay community, spiritual support. It’s wonderful to see."
Whittington grew up in Lakeland and said she remembers when the Klu Klux Klan used to march in downtown Lakeland.
She said "Pride in the Park" just shows how far the city has come in terms of acceptance. She was happy to see counter protesters didn’t show up.
“People would not be able to freely walk down the street in anything like this,” said Whittington, referring to her shirt, which had sprinkles of rainbow colors and showed a woman celebrating being a lesbian as a human right.
“Now people are like, 'where’d you find your shirt? I like that,'" she added. "A big switch. It took us decades to get here, but it’s growth in the right direction, so that’s encouraging.”
Clinton Hollis, who came to promote Synergy Health Clinic, said he was also surprised to see so much support in Polk County. It was his first time coming to the event.
“I was really shocked to find out this is their fifth year of having Pride," Hollis said. "I mean, Polk County, no, we didn’t really think they’d be so welcoming.”