Gen. Mike Flynn: “No this is not a family friendly event and local “leaders” failed our children. But thanks to Epoch Times, it is getting national attention.
Small Florida Town Hosts Pride Event, Enraging Parents With ‘Inappropriate’ Entertainment
Venice is normally a sleepy Florida town where retirees flock during winter months.
But on Nov. 12, the Saturday Farmer’s Market in a downtown park was replaced with the town’s first Pride Community Festival.
Some in the community were outraged by the behavior they saw, and told The Epoch Times that it was lewd and inappropriate for viewing by children.
And they also were angry that the principal of what’s considered the area’s best public school was connected to the event.
Billed as a way for LGBT residents to let others in the community know “we are here,” the festival featured several booths aimed at children.
One included a ring-toss game using battery-operated sex toys as targets, a detail verified by The Epoch Times through photos and videos.
And as children watched, drag performers cavorted throughout the area, videos reviewed by The Epoch Times showed.
One man, clad only in tiny, fluorescent-green briefs and silver high heels, performed pole-dance maneuvers on a lamppost.
He also performed a provocative, high-contact, lap dance on a woman as children stood nearby.
Buxom drag performer known as Georgia Moore strutted through the park, lip-syncing and dancing in a tight rainbow-hued dress and voluminous blonde wig.
Area parents told The Epoch Times they were disturbed to read on festival fliers that the performer spends weekdays in classrooms as a high school history teacher, who insists on a “safe space for her students” and “believes in saying gay when she can.”
As families sat on the grass and watched Georgia Moore perform, another man danced nearby wearing only tiny underwear covered by a flowing piece of tulle.
Bridget Ziegler, a member of the Sarasota County School Board, said she was shocked at the sight of them “gyrating and twerking” against each other.
“I can’t imagine taking my children to something like that,” Ziegler told The Epoch Times.
She was especially dismayed by the ring-toss game, and said she was “afraid to know what the prizes consisted of.”
“It’s inappropriate to have … I can’t even say the word,” she said, fumbling to describe the targets for the tossed rings. “I don’t feel comfortable saying what was involved in that ring-toss game.”
It was especially troubling, she said, at “a daytime festival targeted at children. It’s just so bizarre.”
As a mother, she was stunned that parents brought their children to the event, she said.
Melissa Bakondy’s husband passed by the park and when he saw drag performers and rainbow flags, he urged her to see the spectacle for herself.
“I left my kids with a sitter just to see what was going on,” Bakondy told The Epoch Times.
The entertainment lineup was not vetted properly, she said.
When she saw the drag performers groping patrons and each other, she went to the Venice Police Department to file a complaint.
They told her “there was nothing they could do,” she said.
“I thought surely there were obscenity laws that had been broken,” Bakondy said. “But I was told that they didn’t have an actual victim, and that they were backlogged.”
When the event was spotlighted on Twitter by LibsofTikTok, it caught the attention of Gen. Michael Flynn, who served as National Security Adviser under former President Donald Trump. He wrote on Telegram that he’d viewed photos and videos from the event.
“When you can’t get your way in our public schools, you apparently take to the streets,” he wrote. “Unacceptable.”
The Venice City Council approved the festival in June. Still, it took many residents by surprise, said Tanya Parus, president of the Sarasota County chapter of Moms for America.
The city also approved Venice Pride’s participation in this city’s upcoming annual Christmas parade, she said. Her family may not attend this year, as a result.
“I drove by Centennial Park and had to take a double-take,” Parus told The Epoch Times. “I couldn’t believe my eyes at the drag queens who were groping each other, as well as patrons in the audience. This is not my idea of family-friendly, as it had been advertised.”
She doesn’t object to homosexuality, she said. But exposing children to “sexually explicit stuff” is unacceptable, she said.
“My only problem with this is that it should not be on display for children to be able to see,” she said. “They should never see that. It’s age-inappropriate and children should not see it.”
After witnessing the event, Parus said she went online to find out more about what was going on. She was surprised to see that the county’s Principal of the Year, Stephen Covert, was associated with the event.
Covert leads public Pine View School, a magnet program for gifted students. He also serves as assistant treasurer for CAN Community Health, a 30-year-old, national, non-profit based in Sarasota dedicated to serving “the HIV community.”
The organization’s booth lured in festival attendees with the controversial ring-toss game.
“This is the same man,” Parus fumed, “who motivated students to have a ‘pride walkout day’ in protest of” the Parental Rights in Education bill.
As a member of the board for CAN, Covert should have known the ring-toss game would be wrong for an event billed as “family-friendly,” Bakondy said. He should have condemned it publicly as inappropriate, she added.
“If he cannot give a public statement, that tells you that he thinks he can brush it under the rug,” Bakondy said.
She shared her feelings about the festival and the principal’s connection at the Sarasota County School Board meeting on Nov. 15.
She said she “was shut down because I said something about how they need to investigate and get a statement from him,” she said. “They cut my mic and excused me because it wasn’t an agenda item.”
Covert needs to be “investigated, and maybe fired,” Bakondy said.
The Epoch Times requested comment from Covert and the superintendent of Sarasota County Public Schools. Neither responded.
“I could say, no problem, and look the other way, but then that’s not what we’re called to do,” said resident Michelle Pozzie.
She was furious, she said, because people should be able to “go to a park on a Saturday with their family and not have to have to put their hands over their children’s eyes.”
After the event, Pozzie saw video clips and pictures and was “appalled,” she said. She wonders if the event broke any local obscenity laws. If so, she said, the Venice Pride board of directors should be held responsible.
Under Covert’s leadership, Pine View School is recognized as one of the best in the area, the state, and even the country, Ziegler said. It teaches children in Grades 2–12.
Passions flared as people spoke against and in favor of the Pride Community Festival on the official Venice Facebook page after the event.
“The city was very disappointed to learn that some of the actual event activities did not align with the approved event description,” officials wrote in a post. “The City of Venice was not informed of—and did not approve the details of these activities.”
“And the city seems surprised like you couldn’t see that coming from a mile away,” one Facebook user commented.
Another urged, “Don’t approve this event again.”
Venice council member Rachel Frank responded in a statement to angry emails and telephone calls from concerned citizens.
“I am also alarmed and appalled with some of the footage I have seen from this event next to the children’s fountain,” Frank said in a statement on the city’s website and promised to respond to constituents about their concerns.
“I am working to understand more of the details.”
The city is revisiting its policies for events and plans to update them, she wrote.
Neither Venice Pride nor CAN responded to media requests for comment.
Jannis Falkenstern is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Florida.
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