Thursday, April 19, 2018
News Roundup

More than 125,000 people expected to attend St. Pete Pride, organizers say

ST. PETERSBURG — Thanks to the Supreme Court's historic rulings on same-sex marriages, more than 125,000 people could fill the streets for Saturday's St. Pete Pride events.

"It's definitely going to spur a lot more people to come," said Eric Skains, executive director of St. Pete Pride. "We expect to see a 25 percent increase from last year."

Pride events across the country should swell after Wednesday's rulings, Skains said, adding: "This has more of a national impact."

Since its debut in 2003, the St. Petersburg celebration has become one of the city's biggest events, outdrawing the Martin Luther King Jr. parade with more than 90,000 in attendance the past few years.

Hundreds of vendors converge on the Grand Central and Historic Kenwood neighborhoods, and dozens of floats inch down Central Avenue for the 10 a.m. parade.

Saturday's celebration, the 11th anniversary for the street festival, is the largest pride celebration in Florida and has become an international attraction.

Organizers say they are prepared.

"There will be plenty of room," Skains said. "We want it to be accommodating as possible."

St. Petersburg police also are ready.

"We don't expect any trouble," said spokesman Bill Proffitt.

For the first time, attendees will see a high-ranking mayor waving from a convertible — but that would be the mayor from the other side of the bay, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster said he has a prior commitment this year, but said he wouldn't participate next year either if he wins another term in November.

Two weeks ago, all eight City Council members signed a proclamation recognizing LGBT pride. Foster declined. He then signed a proclamation last week after meeting with St. Pete Pride officials.

The gesture goes along way in the LGBT community, Skains added.

"It lets them know the city will keep them in mind when writing ordinances and policies," he said.

Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

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