Palette Magazine

Q&A: Damian Pardo and Joe Cardona, Gay8 Festival Organizers

Gay8 Festival organizers, Damian Pardo and Joe Cardona;
Gay8 Festival organizers, Damian Pardo and Joe Cardona;

After learning a “boatload” about how to plan and run a successful festival from the ground up, Damian Pardo and Joe Cardona — the team behind the Gay8 Festival — is gearing up to make it happen once again.

Q: Describe the Gay8 festival. 

Damian: The Gay8 Festival is a great unifier for all communities. It’s a music, food and culture festival that welcomes all. It is hosted by the LGBTQ community, but is not restricted to any group.  We all have fun sharing a good time.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for the festival? 

Joe: The issue of connectivity was always an underlying motivator if not promulgator for the idea. What I mean by connectivity is: Miami is perhaps the most diverse city in the U.S. however it may very well also be the most segregated.  Damian and I wanted to bridge some of those spaces that exist between the different communities, and we thought what better way to do it than to bring people together and share good music, art and food in the heart of Miami — Little Havana?

Q: What can attendees expect at this year’s event?

Damian: This year’s attendees can expect some of the same magic that we had last year plus some more offerings such as the best Miami sandwich competition, celebrated lecturers at the Tower Theater, more culture, a Wedding pavilion. We’ve worked really hard at adding more fun, insightful, enjoyable things to do. An important addition this year is that we will be partnering with two additional organizations on an anti-gun violence theme. First, we will be making a direct contribution: 10 percent of the gross proceeds of our awards reception will go to the RJT Foundation — an organization founded by the mothers of the victims of gun violence in Miami Gardens. I think we are doing a good job of linking communities in Miami by joining hands in Little Havana with the African-American community against gun violence, particularly since African-American communities are disproportionately affected. Also, as part of an anti-gun violence theme, we will be debuting a tribute to the Pulse Nightclub victims in the Tower Theater. It will be installed by The Stonewall National Museum and Archives.

Q: List a few things that should not be missed at Gay8 Festival 2017. 

Joe: You definitely don’t want to miss our music stage and our DJs. We have some of the best music offering of any festival.  Our food venues are terrific as well.  We also have free historical walking tours and some of the best LGBT themed films screening at the Tower Theater all day (courtesy of Miami-Dade College and the Miami International Film Festival). 

Damian: I would say don’t miss our comparsa, which is like a carnival-style parade down Calle Ocho, led by “Martyring” Alexis Fernandez, who happens to be on our board of directors. It was magical last year and promises to be spectacular this year.

For more information about Gay8 Festival, visit