Palm Coast, FL – If you’ve ever been to a rave or a really big festival where everyone just came to chill out and share positivity, you might have a sense of the overwhelming bubble of love that surrounded Central Park on Saturday evening for the PRIDE Festival.
Chalking it up in part to the kids being ready for summer break, Randy Bertrand and wife Jennifer walked around chatting up friends and neighbors, enjoying the evening. The couple’s son Elliot helped usher in a breakthrough for transgender kids in Flagler County, and while Bertrand is no longer running for school board, he’s still very much an ally.
“I think it’s an amazing turnout today. I think that over the last year a lot of these people have felt cooped up because of COVID and I just think it’s absolutely fantastic,” said Bertrand.
“We’ve got the health department over there giving vaccines. Last year at the event they were doing tests, now they’re doing vaccines which is totally cool. We have a lot of other local organizations here and people just having a great time.”
Coming from as far away as Jacksonville and Orlando, the atmosphere in Palm Coast was one of good vibes that event co-organizers like Abbey Cooke soaked up with joy.
“Last year we planned in about four or five days. This year we planned in about a month and a half. We have this today which is our vendor, food truck, have lots of fun and have a great time event. Next Saturday we’re meeting at Wadsworth Park and we’re doing our Pulse Vigil Walk at 7 p.m. On June 26th, we’re having an ice cream social at Sally’s Ice Cream,” said Cooke.
Building off the success of 2020’s hastily pulled together event that took LGBTQ+ and allies on a walk across the Flagler Beach bridge before a small gathering at Wadsworth Park with music and speakers, this year the committee had time to plan and the response was more than they’d hoped for as PRIDE Month kicked off.
“I’ve been an ally and advocate my whole life for the community and their rights and I remember last year when we did PRIDE, for reasons that don’t actually need to be said, we were worried about the turnout, maybe 40 people. Last year was like 200 and it was amazing,” said Cooke.
“This year we at least had that background to not freak out that no one is going to show up but this is really insane. (It’s) better than we could have possibly imagined. We were lucky – River City PRIDE in Jacksonville shared our flyer, News4Jax.com did a list of all the PRIDE events and listed ours first, so we have people that drove up from Orlando, Jacksonville, in Palm Coast. It’s crazy,” she said before taking the mic and heading back to the stage.
Eryn Harris, the soft-spoken mastermind behind last year’s success and 2021’s festival was pleased with the way the community came together.
“We had a lot of volunteers that wanted to help. It was actually harder this year even though we had more time, because of how much bigger it was than last year,” shared Harris. “I’m very pleased. There are some things that we’ll have to change for next year, we’ll probably have a parade next year but for the second year, it’s not too bad.”
Harris admitted being surprised by those willing to travel to the festival from far away.
“(I’m) very surprised. Palm Coast is not known for stuff like this. Orlando and Jacksonville is, so I was shocked to see that people were coming from three and four hours away just to come to a little Palm Coast event.”
The takeaway for Harris?
“I hope that people will see how diverse Flagler County is and that we shouldn’t just be known for one thing.”
Upcoming Flagler PRIDE Events:
- Saturday, June 12 at 7 PM – Wadsworth Park – Pulse Vigil Walk
- Saturday, June 26 – Sally’s Ice Cream (Flagler Beach) – Ice Cream Social