A first for Manatee County- the Manatee Pride Festival held Saturday in Bradenton

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BRADENTON, FLA. - Manatee County celebrated diversity in downtown Bradenton on Saturday with the first Manatee Pride Festival.

“This is the first step to show that Manatee County is a diverse county,” said Shannon Summers, one of the event organizers.

More than a thousand people attended the free Manatee County Pride Festival that was held at the Bradenton Riverwalk’s Rossi Park Pavilion.

“Manatee County is finally realizing that we have a diverse population of people and it is a very exciting thing to see people come together here in Manatee County,” said Corie Holmes.

Proceeds from the festival benefitted Prism Youth Initiative that empowers and encourages gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth in Manatee County. James Godwin has been in the Prism Youth Initiative for several years and seen his share of prejudice and bullying. The high school senior is glad to be able to help other kids deal with discrimination and bullying.

“I went through it two years and I just kept moving on so now I just try to make people get over that and I try to be there for them,” Godwin told ABC 7.

Van Kirby lives in Sarasota and his been with his partner for 42 years. He attended the Manatee County Pride Festival to show his support.

“I was raised by a catholic family, you know my parents were catholic, they were loving. I never felt abused or upset or anything like that but the fact was you just didn’t talk about things like this,” said Kirby.

He thinks it is important to celebrate diversity and talk about our differences.

“Because when you talk about things, things aren’t as scary. They get less scary whether it’s the ghost under the bed or the guy in the closet,” he said.

Summers says the Manatee Pride Festival was a success but she says they have plenty of work ahead of them.

“In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to have a rainbow flag to celebrate yourself, you would be just anybody else.”

Saturday may have been a first for Manatee County but in Sarasota County they have been celebrating gay pride for years. The 25th annual Sarasota Pride Festival is coming up October 18th.