Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Parade fills St. Petersburg streets with Pride

ST. PETERSBURG — Life was discouraging when Carl St. Myer went through puberty five decades ago. He couldn't even name the stirrings he felt. He later got married "because maybe that would fix it," he said.

He was 30 before a marriage counselor "told me I needed to be who I really wanted to be," he said.

So St. Myer's 40-minute trek Saturday on the GaYbor pirate ship represented more than just 14 blocks of pulsating music, cheering crowds and Florida-in-June sweat.

Affirmation went along for the ride.

The St. Pete Pride parade "is a way of celebrating who I really am after spending a lot of my life being suppressed of who I was," St. Myer said.

He and his partner of eight years, Willy Emerson, wore matching black kilts as they tossed beads for GaYbor, a coalition of restaurants, clubs and other businesses that have helped revive Ybor City as a gay-friendly destination.

Staging for the parade began early Saturday at 31st Street and Fourth Avenue N. Several dozen floats waited their turn, along with twirling groups and flag wavers. In one patch of parking lot, middle-aged singers from Metropolitan Community Church earnestly practiced We Shall Overcome, barely audible amid music from the floats and loud greetings when friends spotted friends.

Finally, the GaYbor float lurched south along leafy 31st Street in Kenwood, then east on the hot asphalt of Central Avenue, which lined with people three to four rows deep.

There were couples, singles, older people, 20-somethings and families with kids in strollers. Vendor booths offered food, jewelry and chances to sign up for cruises or rescue a pet. Car dealers, financial institutions and real estate offices handed out fliers, illustrating how corporate America has embraced gay pride events.

Off to the side at 27th Street, a dozen or so protesters waved signs that quoted biblical verses. Paradegoers used them as a backdrop for snapping photographs of each other.

St. Petersburg police reported no trouble or arrests.

On the GaYbor float, Carlos Lopez, 40, host at Streetcar Charlies in Ybor, swayed to music on the pirate ship's top deck, occasionally lifting his shirt to flash slim, tight abs to the crowd.

Lopez is from New York, where such parades can draw a million people. "Now I am proud we are bringing this to St. Petersburg," he said.

Emerson recalled the 55-plus community in Lakeland that he and St. Myer left four years ago after neighbors asked them to stay away from the community swimming pool and potluck dinners. The explanation: Their presence made others uncomfortable when grandchildren visited.

"We felt so ostracized. Like fish out of water," Emerson said. "That's what makes this so exciting."

Parade fills St. Petersburg streets with Pride 06/28/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 1, 2008 4:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Editorial: Turn the heat up on AC problem in Hillsborough schools


    Hillsborough County School District students do not want to hear that their buildings are decrepit. They do not want to hear that Florida's legislators are complicit. All they want to hear is the sweet sound of a classroom air conditioner kicking in at full power. Anything less creates uncomfortably hot classrooms and …

    Superintendent Jeff Eakins and the current Hillsborough County School Board did not create this air conditioning mess, but they own it now.
  2. Man in bunny mask part of trio that breaks into Odessa McDonald's to haul away ATM


    ODESSA — A man in a bunny mask and two also-masked accomplices broke into a McDonald's early Wednesday, hoisted an automatic teller machine into a stolen minivan, then dumped the ATM and the van into a pond, deputies say.

    Three masked men, including one in a bunny mask, broke into an Odessa McDonald's early Wednesday and stole the ATM.
 [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Plan your weekend Aug. 25-27: Craig Morgan, Wearable Art 13, SNL's Pete Davidson, Rodeo Fest


    Plan your weekend


    Pete Davidson: Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson will headline this year's University of South Florida Round-Up Comedy Show, a back-to-school tradition at USF. Expect to hear about his recent trip to rehab, since he's known for his confessional …

    The 12th annual Wearable art Fashion Show was held at the Dunedin Fine Art Center on Saturday evening, August 27, 2016.
DAVID W DOONAN | Special To The Times
  4. Richard Corcoran takes aim at public financing of campaigns

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, may not be running for governor — not yet anyway — but his latest idea will get the attention of those who are.

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R- Land O' Lakes, is proposing an end to public financing of campaigns. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  5. Jeb Bush on the 'most ridiculous example of political correctness in history'


    Jeb Bush on ESPN's decision to pull commentator Robert Lee from a football broadcast at the University of Virginia.