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Harvey Milk Festival: Music, art, film

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Stormy Angel peace dances during the third annual Harvey Milk Festival at Selby Five Points Park in downtown Sarasota. (May 12, 2012 Herald-Tribune Staff Photo by Thomas)

The Harvey Milk Festival continues to grow and spread the message of acceptance. Thousands of people, a huge uptick from when it debuted in 2010, are expected to celebrate this weekend while enjoying live music, art and film in downtown Sarasota.

Originally a one-day event in the Rosemary District, the fourth annual Harvey Milk Festival has evolved into a three-day celebration of the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.

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Shannon Fortner, founder of Harvey Milk Festival. COURTESY PHOTO

The mission of the festival, which runs Thursday through Saturday, is to honor the pioneering politician by fostering emerging musicians and artists who support diversity and reject discrimination, and to promote equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people through equal rights legislation.

“Harvey Milk was an icon of the LGBTQ community,” said Shannon Fortner, the founder of the festival who shares Milk's May 22 birthday. “He was trying to get all the communities to work together. He opened a lot of eyes and has been an inspiration for others.”

The debut Harvey Milk Festival in Sarasota was a result of Fortner’s life partner Kelly Hollender being forced back to her native United Kingdom because the federal government doesn’t recognized same-sex unions. Sarasota’s first festival was among 25 rallies in 20 states. The coinciding Harvey Milk Day is an annual celebration held globally May 22 in memory of the gay rights activist, who was assassinated in 1978.

Jennifer O’Connor, the director of the festival, said she represents the “straight allies who need to stand up for their gay friends, so they can enjoy the same rights as us.”

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Jennifer O’Connor, director of the Harvey Milk Festival. COURTESY PHOTO

The event, which culminates with eight hours of live music Saturday at Five Points Park featuring Brooklyn dance pop band French Horn Rebellion, is free to the public.

“We receive lots of support from the community,” Fortner said. “It’s all volunteers with no overhead and basically any money we raise goes right back into the festival.”

Harvey Milk Festival schedule

Thursday (May 16): HMF/Film will host a screening of the documentary “I Am Divine” which follows the life of filmmaker John Waters’ drag queen star Divine. The film features interviews with Waters along with Ricki Lake, Mink Stole and others. 9:30 p.m. Burns Court Cinema, 506 Burns Court, Sarasota; $10.

Friday (May 17): HMF/Art will host The Equality Art Gallery exhibiting local and national artists at MillerBrady Fine Art Gallery. 7-11 p.m., MillerBrady Fine Art Gallery, 614 Florida Ave., Sarasota.

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Frank Maggio, playing Harvey Milk, walking the festival grounds with his peace sign up, poses with Raylon Smith during the third annual Harvey Milk Festival at Selby Five Points Park, in downtown Sarasota. (May 12, 2012 Herald-Tribune Staff Photo by Thomas Bender)

Saturday (May 18): HMF/Music will feature a stage at Five Points Park, featuring nine national and local musicians performing everything from high-energy folk rock to catchy electro pop. “All of our performers believe in LGBTQ equality, creating a welcoming environment for everyone,” Fortner said. The 2013 HMF headliner is Brooklyn-based dance band French Horn Rebellion (interviewed here). Art installations at Five Points Park will include an installation by Steve McAllister titled “The Labyrinth of the Unbroken Path.” Guest speakers include Michael Farmer, Field Coordinator/Gay/Straight Network Coordinator for Equality Florida and Tesla Gunderson, Also OUT Youth teen staff member. The official after party for HMF/Music will be held at Throb Nightclub. The $5 cover will be donated to the festival for any attendee wearing an official HMF bracelet.

Thursday (May 16) through Saturday (May 18), various venues throughout downtown Sarasota; harveymilkfestival.com
Last modified: May 24, 2013
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