Stonewall Fest is in Debt: Answers to Your Questions

Stonewall Pride Parade 2023. Photo by JR Davis.

“I’ll tell you right now: Stonewall Parade and Festival was never, ever in doubt in the city of Wilton Manors.”

Those were the words of Mayor Scott Newton after an hour of debate over the future of the annual Stonewall Parade & Street Festival. The comments were necessary because issuing the permit for the LGBTQ rights event, pro forma in recent years, was being challenged.

Understanding the issue can be confusing. But the answer to every question is: money.

Who will produce Wilton Manors’ Stonewall in 2024?

Jeff Sterling and the Wilton Manors Entertainment Group have produced the last nine Stonewalls. Last year it lost money for a variety of reasons, from weather to fewer volunteers to security costs. About $41,000 is still owed to the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the Fort Lauderdale Fire Dept. Those debts must be paid.

A new group, Wilton Manors Pride (WMP), led by Gary Van Horn and other big players, formed an LLC last month and filed a permit the morning of the meeting. They say they filed to act as a backup if Sterling’s group was denied.

Who will get the permit?

Technically, this wasn’t debated. However, if the city decides to sponsor Stonewall, it’s safe to assume Sterling will get the permit. All permit applications are reviewed by the city and a decision will come in February.

Newton was very clear that he believes time is too short for a new group to start from scratch, and encouraged the WMP to try for 2025.

What does the city get for $50,000?

The short answer is they become the title sponsor, but there are many strings attached. Commissioners grilled Sterling for nearly an hour. Much of it was an autopsy of 2023’s festival.

The city wants the money earmarked for security costs, including payment of back debts. They also want to do a financial audit of the event, better collection methods for gate receipts and wait times, and a shorter parade.

What’s next?

The sponsorship request will come back as a formal motion, detailing commitments for Sterling and the city. It is likely to pass. Commissioner Chris Caputo went over Sterling’s proposed budget, questioning several line items, and members seemed satisfied, or at least placated.

Although the permit and the sponsorship are two separate items, they are inextricably linked. The permit will likely be awarded to Sterling. After the meeting, Steven Crawford, a member of WMP, told OutSFL his group would not further pursue a permit for 2025.

“WMP remains steadfast in our commitment to supporting Stonewall Pride as needed in the future. Positive outcomes include a collective effort to elevate the Pride event while fostering transparency and accountability for all involved.”

Any hurt feelings?

Oh, yeah. After the meeting, angry texts went flying. Accusations of lying and recriminations were sent. Many members of WMEG and WMP overlap in other organizations and events.

People on both sides have shared feelings of betrayal to OutSFL. We agreed not to name them in order for them to speak freely.

During the meeting, Sterling said if this year’s Stonewall lost money that he wouldn’t ask for a permit in 2025. It’s also worth noting that security costs are usually paid in advance. A second invoice didn’t come in until months after the event, and Sterling acknowledged the organization was short on cash.

His preliminary budget includes paying off debts to public and private contractors.


Phone: 954-514-7095
Hours: Monday - Friday 9AM - 2PM


2520 N. Dixie Highway,
Wilton Manors, FL 33305



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