Attendees of the third annual Vero Beach Pride party harkened back to the 1970s, when disco was all the rage and everyone wanted to cross the ropes into the hottest place in town, Studio 54. The Heritage Center was transformed into the famed nightclub and guests came dressed to impress, some in the flamboyance of the era and others in colorful rainbow-hued attire.
A few eyebrows were lifted by surprised attendees of United Against Poverty’s Burgers and Brews Celebration, who wondered about the glitzy garb.
“Both organizations found out a while ago that two events were happening at the same time. Honestly, it hasn’t been a problem at all,” said Shelley Adelle, event co-founder with Katie Gastley and Stephanie LeBlanc.
“If anything, there’s been a lot of curiosity,” said Gastley. “People are saying, ‘What’s going on? This looks like fun.’”
To deal with the overlap, Adelle said they put up some fencing and hired two uniformed Vero Beach Police Department officers, explaining with a grin that the real officers were in addition to the two Village People-style officers at the entrance.
“So this year we actually have three full events,” said Adelle, noting that after the sold-out ticketed event at the Heritage Center, there would be an after-party with entertainment at Kilted Mermaid, and on Sunday, a family-friendly Sunday Fun-day at Heaton’s Reef at the Vero Beach Hotel.
The event, which annually celebrates diversity and a message of acceptance and belonging to the LGBTQ+ community, also paid homage this year to the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots, with a memorial set up in the courtyard.
Later in the evening, Graham Emerson, a freshman at Florida Atlantic University, spoke about the significance of the riots, which marked the commencement of the gay rights movement. Its activists are credited with paving the way for the legal acceptance of subsequent generations to “love who they love in the public eye.”
Vero Pride again presented a $1,000 college scholarship, this year to senior Anna Birnholz, who won for her ‘What Diversity Means to Me’ essay, ‘The Woven Tapestry.’
“She runs the Q+ Acceptance Club that is out of Vero Beach High School, which we’ve been working with throughout the year,” said Gastley. She said the after-sschool club provides a safe outlet for individuals questioning or identifying as LGBTQ+.
“They were really eager to meet with adult members of the community, so we’ve gone in and we’ve done some Q&A’s with them, and we hope to continue that programming going forward,” said Adelle.
In true Studio 54 fashion, the roughly 225 guests were kept entertained throughout the night as they socialized with friends, boogied to musical selections by Scott Robert, a former resident DJ at the Pulse Nightclub, and whooped with abandon to stage performances by impersonators Kathryn Nevets, 2014’s “Miss National Comedy Queen”; Jessica Deveraux, first alternative to Miss Gay Western States America 2017; and Jacqueline St. James, “The Legs of Lakeland.”
“Our hope moving forward is that we will be able to connect people in the community together, so if anyone is interested in participating in events throughout the year, we are looking for volunteers,” said Adelle.
For more information visit veropride.com.