Keep St. Pete Pride parade put, crowd tells council
A large crowd filled St, Petersburg City Council chambers Thursday to support Mayor Rick Kriseman's decision to withhold city financial support of St. Pete Pride if organizers move forward with their plan to relocate the parade from Grand Central to a waterfront route.
The normally quirky and sedate open forum segment of the council's meeting was extended by 10 minutes to accommodate public comment.
Eleven out of the 13 speakers said they wanted the parade to continue along Central Avenue in the Grand Central and adjacent Kenwood neighborhoods. SInce its founding in 2003, the speakers said, the neighborhoods, which have large gay populations, have nutured the parade and related festivites.
"It's our child,": said one speaker.
Hal Freedman lives downtown, but he said he wanted the parade to stay put. The former San Francisco resident said moving the parade to a mile-long waterfront route between Albert Whitted and Vinoy parks would be like moving his former city's parade to be moved out of the historic gay district of the Castro to that city's civic center.
"It's our Grand Prix. It's our RibFest. It's our Mainsail," said another speaker, ticking off well-known downtown events.
Council member Amy Foster, who is gay and lives in Kenwood, said she only learned of the proposed move through social media. She said downtown parks are already stressed by multiple events.
Pride executive director Eric Skains said moving the eventn would save the city money as security and other costs would be cheaper. He also raised security concerns, saying the parade, attended by 220,000 people last year, needed the extra security features of a waterfront venue.
Pride board member Susan McGrath said she looked forward to meeting with council members to clarify why the group wants to move. She said that the mayor's decision blindsided the group, but added that she thought a solution could be reached.
But, she said, despite the rough reception Thursday, the group has no plans to rethink its move downtown.
Pride is scheduled for June 23-25 with the parade on June 24.