Key West residents will bring a revered part of the island’s LGBTQ history to New York this weekend for the WorldPride event.
A Keys contingent will carry a 100-foot section of the 1.25-mile “Sea to Sea” rainbow flag fabricated by the rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker in the June 30 parade.
In 2003, Baker and his team spent three months in Key West sewing about 17,600 linear yards of fabric into the rainbow banner that was unfurled along Key West’s Duval Street — from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean — on June 15, 2003.
The event marked the 25th anniversary of Baker’s creation.
Current and former Keys residents and their friends and families from across the country will carry the flag in the WorldPride parade.
“We look forward to showing that Key West is one of the leading destinations to visit by displaying one of the most iconic pieces of history to be created for the LGBTQ community,” said Alan Beaubien, president of the Key West Business Guild’s board of directors..
The Florida Keys & Key West tourism council and the guild also plan to market the subtropical destination at an event expected to draw millions.
Key West has been famously accepting of all walks of life, and sexual orientations, for decades.
In 2000, the Key West City Commission approved Its official motto, “One Human Family,” a term created by local artist J.T. Thompson, who makes bumper stickers and wristbands that he mails all over the globe.
WorldPride will also mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots, which activists call an uprising, when a community of gays fought back against police who had raided the now famous Greenwich Village gay bar.
It was a time when homosexuality was defined as mental illness and same-sex displays of affection could lead to arrests.
“It is important to be present at this historic moment to remind everyone that our islands serve as a place free from judgment for LGBTQ visitors and residents alike,” said Guy Ross, the tourism council’s LGBTQ sales manager.
“By participating in WorldPride 2019, we can showcase why we remain such a special, much-loved and much-celebrated destination,” Ross said.
For those staying in Key West this weekend, a viewing party of the NYC parade is scheduled from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Sidebar, 504 Angela St., so locals can watch the Sea to Sea flag being unfurled during the parade.
“This is a huge honor,” local attorney Bernadette Restivo posted along with the event. “Wear your Pride colors and join us.”