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GaYbor Days celebrations move ahead to Memorial Day weekend

YBOR CITY — It came down to pride — St. Pete Pride.

Organizers of GaYbor Days moved up this year's events to this weekend to avoid a conflict with the St. Pete Pride Promenade on June 30. The Ybor parties start Thursday and run through Monday.

For the past four years, GaYbor Days have been held the weekend before the Fourth of July. St. Pete Pride's parade, now in its 10th year, takes place the last Saturday in June.

The gay celebrations typically complemented each other until this year, when they would have overlapped. Rather than force fans to choose, GaYbor officials switched their party to the Memorial Day weekend.

"We thought it would be too much for two cities," said Carrie West, president of the GaYbor District Coalition, which promotes gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses in Ybor. "The same people would have been going to the same places. We decided to separate them a little bit."

Pushing up GaYbor Days could help Ybor in the long run, he said. People who attend St. Pete Pride often visit Ybor or stay there overnight. Instead of one busy holiday weekend this summer, the area could have two.

St. Pete Pride, the largest gay pride celebration in the state, every year considers changing its date because of the heat, but always decides against it, said executive director Chris Rudisill. The last Saturday in June honors the anniversary of the Stonewall riots in 1969 that launched the gay rights movement.

"We really stick with that history even though it's really hot," he said.

If left on Memorial Day weekend in the future, GaYbor Days could become an annual kickoff for gay events in the area, followed by Gay Days in Orlando, held this year May 29 to June 4.

"It might actually end up being a great thing," Rudisill said. "There's not a lot going on during Memorial Day. We generally don't have a lot of events that week."

Don Barco, owner of King Corona Cigars on Ybor's Seventh Avenue, said he expects Memorial Day weekend to be just as good as the Fourth of July, and probably a lot cooler. Before GaYbor Days started in 2008, he used to close on July 4.

"I'm not concerned. Business is going pretty well for us in Ybor and I'm seeing a different energy here and it's really positive," he said.

GaYbor Days celebrations move ahead to Memorial Day weekend 05/22/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 10:48pm]
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