Naples Pride postpones festival, continues growing sense of community

Naples Pride is working with the City of Naples to recognize June 16 as a day to celebrate pride.

Although Pride is postponing its annual festival until November, many in the community are proud of how far the organization has come since forming in 2017.

“I was always the loud gay person that most people thought was annoying,” Eric Oritz said.

But at Naples Pride Festival in 2019, Ortiz found a new sense of community within the city he grew up.

“I’ve never been around so many people so comfortable in their own skin and so happy to be the way that they are,” Oritz said. “I was just overwhelmed with this feeling … I’m not the only person like this.”

Naples Pride won’t be having its festival during pride month in 2021.

“We made a really, really big decision to postpone it to November 20,” said Callhan Soldavini with Naples Pride board of directors.

“I’m disappointed about it,” Oritz said. “I’m heading off to school in the fall, so unfortunately, I won’t be able to come back and attend it.”

With the annual event expected to bring hundreds to Cambier Park to celebrate the LGBTQ community, Naples Pride says it feels it’s safer to wait.

But with a later festival comes challenges.

“One of the biggest challenges for Naples Pride was we were full speed ahead of opening a pride center a few months after the pandemic, so we signed the lease and had bills and rent due,” Soldavini said.

But the pandemic hasn’t been all doom and gloom for Naples Pride.

“We had an influx of volunteers,” Soldavini said. “Constantly getting calls at the pride center and constantly getting emails.”

With the new center and more volunteers, Naples Pride says it’s made major strides in becoming more of an organization this year despite the pandemic.

Naples Pride plans to celebrate becoming a stronger LGBTQ community in November at the new festival date.

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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