ST. PETERSBURG — They got on stage about noon, when the sky was cloudless, the sun bright and the breeze nonexistent.
It was sweltering, but for singers Matthew McGee and Scott Daniel, The Scott & Patti Show had to go on. Daniel was garbed in a red blazer and tie. McGee wore a glittery red dress, panty hose, heels and a blond wig.
"If you're in drag," McGee said after the show, "You're going to melt."
But despite sizzling temperatures that reached into the mid 90s in St. Petersburg on Sunday, Central Avenue between 22nd and 27th Streets N was bustling during the St. Pete Pride festival.
Revelers did what they could to stay cool: Many went shirtless and some wore bikinis. A few brought umbrellas. By 1 p.m., several people sought shade below business entrances on Central Avenue. A misting station was also available.
Sunday marked the first time the festival was held separately from the St. Pete Pride parade, which took place Saturday evening after a block party.
Vendors and those in attendance seemed to like it.
"So far, it's turning out to be good," said Andrew Panton of St. Petersburg-based Cheers! Events. Their booth was decorated with rainbow-colored feather boas.
Having the festival at an earlier time prevents the chance of evening rain dampening festivities. Last year, the festival ended an hour early because of downpours.
"It was a monsoon," Panton recalled.
Mina and Deb Kaeding of Tampa said they enjoyed having more time to visit vendors, and the fact that St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman attended Saturday's parade was also a plus for them.
"Everybody has a right to their own beliefs and feelings," Deb Kaeding said. "But we appreciate those who understand."
Their favorite part of St. Pete Pride: being able to show affection in public without attracting stares. About a year ago, they married in Washington, D.C.
"We would have loved it to be able to marry in this state," Deb Kaeding said.
More than 300 exhibitors flanked the street, including Equality Florida. A line of people wanting to sign a petition for marriage equality in Florida formed outside the booth.
"We're getting hundreds" of signatures, said Equality Florida coordinator Connie Siu. "By the end of the day, thousands."
St. Pete Pride organizers estimated that about 175,000 people would attend the parade and festival, with as many as 3,500 hotel rooms booked in St. Petersburg for the festivities.
Among the out-of-towners were Chris Neal and Juanie Rose of Bradenton. The women have been dating since 2006.
"We just came up here to support it," Neal said, adding that Bradenton recently had its first gay pride parade. "I think it's growing and people are accepting it. We are only human."
Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] or (727)445-4157. Follow @lauracmorel.