LGBTQ South Florida

Gay8 organizers: 2018 festival canceled after Miami gave date to Three Kings Parade

Gay8 Festival organizers gather at the restaurant Ball & Chain in Little Havana on Jan. 8, 2016. From left to right: Damian Pardo, Alexis Fernandez (AKA drag queen Marytrini), Amy Bloom and Joe Cardona.
Gay8 Festival organizers gather at the restaurant Ball & Chain in Little Havana on Jan. 8, 2016. From left to right: Damian Pardo, Alexis Fernandez (AKA drag queen Marytrini), Amy Bloom and Joe Cardona. Miami Herald File

Gay8 organizers on Tuesday canceled their third Little Havana LGBTQ street festival after the city of Miami gave their presumed 2018 Sunday date during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend to the annual Univision-sponsored Three Kings Parade.

“The news was catastrophic as Gay8 Festival’s programming and fundraising had been built around the MLK weekend,” according to a statement from Gay8 founders Joe Cardona and Damian Pardo. “Further, organizers were shocked that no one in the city had contacted Gay8 Festival.”

Gay8, a free street festival to celebrate LGBTQ art, music and culture on Calle Ocho between Southwest 14th and 17th avenues, began in 2016. Thousands attended that year, and even more people turned out in January 2017, Cardona said.

City leaders say Gay8 organizers are themselves responsible for losing their usual date.

“The city of Miami has a first-come, first-serve policy for special event permits,” said Diana Gonzalez, Miami’s communications director, in an email to the Miami Herald. “The organizers of the Gay8 Festival are aware of this policy since on July 14, 2016, they submitted a permit application for the festival held January 15, 2017.”

A year ago, according to Gonzalez, Univision actually lost its preferred date to Gay8.

“Univision waited until Aug. 2, 2016, to apply for the Three Kings Parade to be held on that same date and it was denied, so a different date was chosen. As of today, the city has yet to receive a permit application for the 2018 Gay8 Festival. Univision submitted a permit application on June 7, 2017, for the Three Kings Parade on Jan. 14, 2018, and secured that date.”

Gonzalez said that all annual city events — including the Miami Marathon, Ultra Music Festival, Martin Luther King Jr. Parade and Pitbull’s New Year’s Revolution — must go through a yearly application process.

Pardo and Cardona haven’t formally applied for a 2018 festival, saying they thought the first-come, first-serve rule applied only to first-time events, and that Miami’s special events form says “applications are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis,” not based on the actual date of submission.

Cardona says he has sent “multiple emails” to Mayor Tomás Regalado and City Manager Daniel Alfonso trying to work out an amicable plan, “and this is the first we hear from the city.”

The Three Kings Parade on Southwest Eight Street in Little Havana on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2016. CARL JUSTE Miami Herald File

Three Kings Day is Jan. 6. In recent years, the Miami parade has happened on the Sunday nearest Three Kings Day.

For the past two years, Gay8 has been held one week after the Three Kings Parade.

Cardona and Pardo say no one at the city told them their regular date would be unavailable in 2018, that they learned in mid-July from Univision — which also sponsors Gay8.

Gonzalez said the city is offering a solution: The Miami Office of Film and Entertainment “has suggested Gay8 Festival organizers apply for a permit for Jan. 13, 2018,” which would keep the festival on the Saturday during Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend.

Cardona and Pardo say they’ll consider taking the Saturday date but believe that usually supportive Eighth Street merchants won’t be happy.

“Saturday is a horrible day for the merchants,” Cardona said. “A lot of merchants whose businesses are open on Saturdays would be disrupted. The insurance companies, the people who don’t cater to a festival crowd. We don’t want to do that.”

He counter-proposes: Stage the Three Kings Parade the morning of Jan. 14 on Calle Ocho from Southwest Fifth to 14th avenues — and Gay8 in the afternoon and evening from 14th to 17th avenues.

“Both events can go off on the same day,” Cardona said. “We’ll start an hour later, they can end an hour sooner.”

Pardo says he and Cardona “have no issue with Univision.”

“We love the Three Kings Parade,” Pardo said. “Univision is our sponsor. The issue here is the city. They are claiming there is a process, which is not how it works.”

Now, Cardona and Pardo are calling for “an LGBTQ boycott of holding special events in the city of Miami.”

“It’s definitely on,” Cardona said Tuesday night.