Longtime national and South Florida LGBT activist Dave Cook on Monday was named new executive director for the 2016 Miami Beach Gay Pride parade and festival.
Cook has been an active volunteer within the LGBT community since he was 21 living in Erie, Pennsylvania.
“We started PALS, Personals and Alternative Lifestyles, in conjunction with the Catholic Church. Go figure. They let us use the space below the Catholic Church. At a peak, we had about 100 people. That same year, I also helped co-found the LGBT suicide hotline,” said Cook, 52, who moved to South Florida in 1991.
Cook became a US Airways fight attendant in 1987, giving him “the opportunity to expand my volunteer efforts as I made friends around the country.”
In 2014, the National LGBTQ Task Force honored Cook for his community volunteerism and “unwavering enthusiasm.”
As new Miami Beach Gay Pride executive director, Cook succeeds Ivan Cano, who left to become CEO of the World Outgames Miami 2017 committee.
Cook says he has plans for Pride to “grow and expand, become an international tourist attraction for the straight and gay community.”
He also said that despite big political gains recently, “we still have work to do on the LGBT equality front,” adding that Pride is “a great way to celebrate our accomplishments.”
Here’s the news release:
Long-time LGBTQ community advocate Dave Cook has been named Executive Director for the 8th Annual Miami Beach Gay Pride parade and festival, announced Mark Fernandes, who is returning as the Chairman of the Pride organizing committee. Cook replaces outgoing Executive Director Ivan Cano who has left to become the CEO of World OutGames Miami 2017. Miami Beach Gay Pride will take place April 8 – 10, 2016.
“With the exponential growth of Pride over the past seven years, the responsibilities for producing an event of this magnitude have also increased,” Fernandes said. “To ensure next year’s Pride is the best event ever for the community, we’ve brought in Dave Cook who is not only well connected and respected in the community, but also possesses a wealth of experience producing special events.”
Cook will be responsible for the overall production of the three-day Miami Beach Gay Pride 2016, everything from sponsorships and parade coordination to festival layout and volunteer coordination, Fernandes said. Previously, Cook was a special event consultant working on events such as Miami Beach Gay Pride; the Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Galas; National LGBTQ Task Force Creating Change Conferences, Miami Recognition Dinners and Winter Party Festivals, Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festivals, the Pink and Purple Gala and many others.
Before joining Miami Beach Gay Pride, Cook was the Development Coordinator in Miami for the National LGBTQ Task Force from 1997 to 2013. He started with the Task Force as a Winter Party Festival volunteer for nightclub events and then as a nightclub event captain and later as director of dance programming. He later became the event’s director of volunteers, sponsorship chair and ultimately served for three years as co-chair of the entire festival before becoming a full-time employee there.
Cook’s calling as a community advocate and activist began in 1984 when he co-founded the first LGBT organization in northwestern Pennsylvania, PALS (Personal and Alternative Lifestyles), in his hometown of Erie. That same year, he also helped start the local LGBT suicide prevention hotline.
His career as a flight attendant with US Airways afforded him the opportunity to travel throughout the east coast where he spread his volunteer endeavors to LGBT fundraising events in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Orlando, Charlotte and Atlanta. He moved to Miami Beach in 1991 and soon started volunteering for local organizations such as SAVE, Winter Party Festival, White Party, GLAAD, Aqua Girl, Miami Beach Gay Pride and countless others.
Since its inception in 2009, Miami Beach Gay Pride has grown from a neighborhood event to an event on the global stage with A-list celebrities such as Mario Lopez as Grand Marshal in 2015, Gloria Estefan as Grand Marshal in 2014 and Adam Lambert performing in 2013. Attendance has grown as well. An estimated 15,000 spectators turned out for the first Pride parade in 2009; an estimated 130,000 attended the event in 2015, which attracted not only South Floridians, but also visitors from throughout the world. In addition to Parade spectators, last April’s event included more than 65 parade contingencies, 35 floats and 2,700 participants. The Pride Festival which followed featured more than 100 LGBTQ-friendly vendors and businesses, plus refreshments, two stages of entertainment, a family-friendly play area and fireworks. Recently, Miami Beach Gay Pride was named one of the “Top 100 Events of the Year” for the second year in a row by BizBash Magazine.
The mission of Miami Beach Gay Pride is to bring together members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, their friends, allies, and supporters in celebration of the unique spirit and culture of the LGBTQ community. Miami Beach Gay Pride organizes free, safe, quality, mass-appeal events that are open to all, including the annual parade and festival, which features community booths and expo areas, stages with entertainment, food and drink vendors and family-safe play areas. Additionally, Miami Beach Gay Pride produces educational, cultural and entertainment events and activities throughout the year and sanctions official Pride-related events in order to create a truly celebratory experience for the whole community.
Miami Beach Gay Pride is produced with the support of the Miami Beach Visitors and Convention Authority. For more information, visit www.miamibeachgaypride.com.