The third annual Harvey Milk Festival (HMF), a three-day affair designed to raise awareness and bolster support in the movement for LGBT equality while celebrating the life of civil rights activist, Harvey Milk, takes place at downtown Sarasota’s Five Points Park Thursday through Saturday.
The event is family-friendly and open to the public with free admission.
Milk, one of the nation’s first openly gay officials elected to political office, served for less than 11 months as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1978 before he was assassinated by former City Supervisor Dan White at just 48 years old. Since his death, Milk’s status as an icon for LGBT equality has not waned, but rather grown stronger as civil rights activists embrace his legacy and continue along the path for equality that he trail-blazed in the 1970s.
Sarasota’s HMF is aligned with other ceremonies across the nation established to memorialize Milk and raise awareness about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. The festival, which took place in downtown Sarasota’s Rosemary District in , expands this year to include a film screening in addition to the art and live music performances that characterized it in years past.
HMF kicks off this evening at the with a screening of the music documentary, Hit So Hard: The Life and Near Death Story of Patty Schemel.
As the drummer for Hole, the alternative rock band fronted by Courtney Love, Schemel battled drug addiction during the band’s peak in popularity in the 1990s. The film follows her story and includes never-before-seen footage of grunge rock legend, Kurt Cobain. Following the screening, a reception for the film will take place at .
On Friday, Ivory will host the Silent T art festival, a pop-up exhibition whose theme addresses what it means to be transgender and aims to erase the stigma surrounding gender non-conformity.
Work created by local artists to reflect transgender themes and messages supporting equality will be on sale during the duration of HMF, with 25 percent of proceeds going toward supporting the festival. The gallery opening, which runs from 5 to 11 p.m., will also feature a live performance by Sons of Hippies, a Tampa Bay area favorite in the independent music scene. The gallery will re-open at 4 p.m. on Saturday for festival attendees.
The opening ceremony for the main day of HMF takes place on Saturday, starting at 4 p.m.. San Francisco artist John Baden will present an original art piece to the festival and the city of Sarasota during the ceremony. In addition to this special presentation, Mayor Suzanne Atwell and County Commissioner Carolyn Mason, are scheduled to make an appearance during the HMF 2012 kickoff.
Additional guest speakers at this year’s festival include Sally L. Phillips, the president of the Florida LGBT Democratic Caucus, and Joyce Hamilton Henry, Director of the Mid-Florida Regional Office of the ACLU in Tampa. Shakira Refos, who is known locally for the projects she organizes such as and , will serve as this year’s Master of Ceremonies.
HMF, which has grown a reputation for showcasing spectacular musical talent, intends to continue impressing its audience for the third year in a row. This year the indie-fest features headliners from all the way across the pond.
The UK-based electronic ensemble Breton, whose music is accompanied by mesmerizing video art, will close out the festival with an hour-long performance scheduled to begin at 10:45 p.m.
Other out-of-state bands include the Minneapolis-based synth-pop band, CLAPS, as well as electro-pop solo act, Henry Henry Henry! and neo-glam rockers, The Sexual Side Effects, hailing from Atlanta, Georgia.
MetorEYES, a Sarasota band fronted by HMF president, Shannon Fortner, is joined by other Sarasota favorites such as Cassolette, The Send Offs, (The) Umbrella Cult and Elysian Sex Drive who will be performing throughout the evening leading up to Breton’s performance.
After the festival winds down, the official after-party takes place at , where DiDa Ritz from RuPaul’s Drag Race is slated as the guest performer. The after-party’s $5 cover fee will be donated to HMF on behalf of anyone wearing a festival wristband.
For the full band list, performance schedule and any additional information, visit the official Harvey Milk website.