Scaled-back Treasure Coast PrideFest takes place after Port St. Lucie, organizer mutual decision

'It sucks, but, you know, we don't really have a say in the motion,' Donna Pixley says
Posted at 11:26 AM, Apr 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-23 00:03:22-04

PORT ST LUCIE, Fla. — A slimmed-down Treasure Coast PrideFest took place Saturday after an agreement between the City of Port St. Lucie and the Pride Alliance of the Treasure Coast canceled the parade and limited other activities to those 21 years of age and old.

The event started at noon and went until 6 p.m. at the MIDFLORIDA Event Center on Southeast Event Center Place.

The Pride Alliance of the Treasure Coast, the event organizer, told WPTV they were first contacted by the city before receiving a letter Wednesday confirming they had to ban anyone under 21 to host the event Saturday, which started at noon and went until 6 p.m. Saturday at the MIDFLORIDA Event Center on Southeast Event Center Place in Port St. Lucie.

The City of Port St. Lucie released a statement to WPTV about the event, telling us it was a mutual decision between the City and the alliance to scale back the event.

On Friday, April 14th, the city and the alliance held a conference call to discuss concerns about the possible passage of Florida State Senate Bill 1438. The concern was that if Gov. Ronald DeSantis signed the bill before the event and it took effect immediately, last-minute cancellations would be more harmful to the event than scaling it back ahead of time.

The alliance also expressed concerns that the organization's nonprofit status could be in jeopardy if it violated the new law.

The city also said it was the Pride Alliance's decision to limit attendance to those over 21, rather than 18, because of their intention to sell alcohol at the event. Should SB 1438 be in effect during PrideFest, the city said there is potential risk that the MIDFLORIDA event center's liquor license could be revoked as a consequence of violating the bill.

The city owns the event center's liquor license, and said having it revoked would be a huge loss in revenue and could result in higher tax dollars to fund facility operations.

The alliance also decided to the event's Kid Zone and the Pride Parade because of the bill as well. If it passes, anyone wearing drag could face fines or even jail time if a child is exposed to it.

Members of the alliance told WPTV because the parade goes outside the event's fenced-in area, it would be too hard to control what people, and children in particular, are able to see.

Thus, the city and the alliance said it was a mutual decision between the two of them to cancel the parade and kid-zone, and limit attendance to those over 21.

For attendees and co-organizers, like Donna Pixley, with the Sanctuary of the Treasure Coast, it's disappointing to hear.

"Last year we had quite a bit of kids, because you have partners in committed relationships that have children together that come to the event, it was a very friendly event," Pixley said. "We just don’t know where they’re coming from with that."

Pixley also said she doesn't blame the city.

"I mean its not really the city’s fault, they really have nothing to do with this," Pixley said. "It just seems like we’re going back in time.”

Pixley showed WPTV the black tarps the event organizers are now putting up around the perimeter of the event center to block out the event from kids on the outside.

“We didn’t have that last year," Pixley said. “You know, so like, people can’t in and see what’s going on, like 'Oh my god, there’s a drag queen, ya know?' "

Still, Pixley, came out to help set up the PrideFest with a positive outlook while fully-dressed in all seven colors of the rainbow.

"It means pride," Pixley said. "It means having pride for my community and not being afraid."

She also said she's not letting the new regulations stop her and others from having a good time.

"It sucks, but, you know, we don’t really have a say in the motion, but we’re going to be here, we’re going to have fun and we’re going to make the best of the decision," Pixley said.

She also wanted to leave a message with anyone who opposes the event and what it stands for.

“I love you. I do, unequivocally because that’s what were all about, that’s why were here and stuff so hate me if you will, but I still have love for you as a human being," said Pixley.

The city also said the meeting and calls where these agreements were made were held with the organizer and city staff, elaborating in this statement, reading in part quote:

"The Mayor and City Council were not involved in the management, or the negotiations of what occurs, at the events at the Event Center. Per the City’s Charter, the Council has no authority or ability to manage or negotiate these events on behalf of the City. This is staff’s responsibility. Therefore, neither the Mayor nor the City Council were involved in any of these conversations and were not made aware of the agreed-to changes in PrideFest 2023 until after they were publicly announced."

The Pride Alliance of the Treasure Coast also released a statement via Facebook, reading in full:

"As all of you know, the political climate that we are currently in has us all very concerned for our community. After multiple meetings with city officials, it is with a heavy heart that Pride Alliance of the Treasure Coast has to announce that this weekend’s Pridefest will now be a 21 and older event. The city has decided that with the likelihood that the Governor will sign the latest bill into effect this evening, that we will need to be on the side of caution and has required us to make this necessary change. We are obviously upset and dishearten that it has come to this. We also regret to announce that we will have to cancel our plans to bring back our beloved parade.

We hope that everyone understands that this is definitely not what we wanted at all and are working with the city to assure our safety as well as produce a positive event. We have held off as long as we could in making this announcement as we were hoping it would not have to be made. We hope that everyone still supports out community and attends this event! We will be making an announcement in the near future about a family friendly Party in the Park where our youth can celebrate who they are as well in conjunction with the Sanctuary of the Treasure Coast."