Broward to push tourism on national scale, paying for Rose Parade float and considering drag performers to promote diversity

Florida might have banned drag shows in public places, but Broward County might put their queens on display for the nation to see.

Broward County signed off Tuesday on a $790,000 plan to have a float in the Jan. 1, 2024, Rose Parade, the iconic New Year’s tradition in California, as part of a massive advertising effort to bring tourists here to eat, sleep, shop and play.

The event is said to attract 1 million street-side spectators and 21.3 million U.S. television viewers, with more than half of those households having annual income above $100,000. The money for the float will come from Broward’s tourist “bed tax,” the extra 6% charged at hotels.

The $790,000 includes consultant fees to help decide who and what goes on the float, and how to put it together. “It’s not in our wheelhouse to do this,” said Stacy Ritter, president and CEO of Visit Lauderdale, Broward County’s tourism promotion arm.

What gets featured on Broward’s float isn’t yet known, but the beaches, and cruise ships of Port Everglades, are likely contenders. (That’s one of the reasons cited not to do the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, where people in bathing suits would be shivering in Manhattan’s flurries.)

And who gets to ride isn’t finalized either, but drag queens are a consideration, and other possibilities include a Panthers hockey player, a public school teacher and Seminole tribal member. Maybe a faux alligator will get some airtime, too. Ritter said.

Ritter said the idea is to push a message of Broward County and its cities as accepting of diversity: “Yes, there are Florida destinations that embrace diversity and inclusivity and are truly welcoming everyone under the sun,” she said.

She called the event a “once in a lifetime thing.”

The float won’t just pass by. Eyeballs worldwide will be locked for a 2½-minute time slot while the announcer reads from a prepared script.

“Two and a half minutes of only us,” Ritter said. “And they’re talking about us.”

County Commissioner Michael Udine called the efforts “cutting edge,” urging her to consider Inter Miami soccer as a participant, too.

The move comes at a critical time to counter national messaging, Ritter said. Broward County has lost 14 conventions as organizers cite the state’s divisive political climate as their reason to stay out of Florida. Four of those cancellations were in August alone. Organizers have cited the polarization of gay rights and “assault on diversity and equity and inclusion.”

And a drag queen, or queens, on the float would send a message, too: As culture war issues have been escalated by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republicans in the Florida Legislature, they’ve asserted that drag is harmful for children. The governor signed SB 1438, titled “Protection of Children,” into law, legislation that prohibits anyone from knowingly admitting a child to an adult live performance.

Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at Follow on Twitter @LisaHuriash

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.