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Pride Fort Lauderdale celebrates second year on city's beach

Thousands of people celebrated the annual Pride Fort Lauderdale, flooding the beach with rainbow-colored clothes and costumes in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Sunday was the second time the Pride festival took place on the beach in its 41-year history in South Florida.

This year’s Pride was also Patricia Varner’s first, and the costumes were her favorite part, she said.

“I’m here to support the LGBTQ community and to show that love is love,” Varner, of Boca Raton, said. “The music was nice and the whole event was really lively.”

The free event featured two stages of guest speakers and musicians. Electronic music filled Fort Lauderdale’s Beach Park for much of the afternoon.

Performers included British singer and producer Estelle, as well as Charo, the actress and guitarist.

Local officials including Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler and the city’s police took to the stages to express support for the LGBTQ community.

“We’re a welcoming, open and very diverse community,” Seiler said to the crowds. “[We are] absolutely here to help you, to serve you and to keep you safe.”

Hundreds of vendors also lined the beach selling novelty shirts, food and drinks. Two booths were also giving free health screenings and HIV tests.

Organizers also said they aimed to make this year’s event more inclusive. New this year were areas specifically for seniors, families and people looking to celebrate but remain sober.

In one of the vendor tents was Equality Florida, one of the state’s largest advocacy organizations for pro-LGBT legislation.

“[Pride] is bringing the community together, and it’s a very inclusive organization,” said Wesley Davis, a field organizer with Equality Florida. “It really helps spread the message of equality throughout Florida.”

achokey@sun-sentinel.com, 561-243-6531, Twitter: @aric_chokey

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