St. Pete Pride doesn't draw raves from Foster
ST. PETERSBURG -- There was much hullabaloo last week when Mayor Bill Foster said he would check out Saturday's St. Pete Pride celebration to determine whether it was family friendly.
Foster attended the gay rights event in 2006 and disapproved of what he said was an adult-themed atmosphere. It was the open display of sexuality, not the sexual orientation, that was the reason Foster gave for not signing this year's proclamation honoring the event.
But this year, Foster said he'd "mosey on down" to check out the event again to see if it, in his eyes at least, had become more tame. Foster said he strolled the parade route from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday at about Central Avenue and 24th Street.
Alas, he said he saw much of the same adult-themed behavior.
"Nothing was really different," Foster said. "The organizers can't control the revelers, who are along the parade route, but they can control the parade participants and the vendors. I'm not going to go into specifics, but it was tailored to an adult audience."
Asked what he saw that was targeted for mature viewers, Foster said he wouldn't go into specifics.
Organizers, who said the parade and festival drew about 80,000, said they were puzzled about what Foster saw.
"I'm kind of surprised by this response," said Chris Rudisill, executive director for St. Pete Pride. "We worked hard to make sure that people behaved appropriately and made sure that everyone felt welcome. Overall, we had a lot of people who enjoyed the festival with their families."
Dave Schauer, a former St. Pete Pride chairman, said he believes Foster still isn't comfortable with gay culture.
"I still give him credit for taking baby steps," Schauer said. "But I think the mayor has a discomfort level with same-sex couples. What happened out there was nothing worse than any large celebration in St. Pete, like Blues Fest or Rib Fest. It was significantly more family friendly than Gasparilla will ever hope to be."
Foster wouldn't say if this meant he wasn't signing next year's proclamation.
"I take each one as they come," he said.
Michael Van Sickler, Times staff writer