ST. PETERSBURG — Organizers of the ninth annual St. Pete Pride Promenade Parade and Street Festival have learned a thing or two about throwing the biggest bash in the city.
So when they were planning this year's event, they decided to tweak a few things.
For starters, the parade will begin and end on Saturday an hour earlier than in past years. Misting fans will be placed along the parade route, which goes down Central Avenue, to allow spectators to cool off. There also will be two food courts this year with tables and umbrellas.
It's all in the name of making things more comfortable for the thousands of people expected to flock to the city's center for the festival.
In the past few years, 80,000 people have made such a trek to the Grand Central and Historic Kenwood neighborhoods, where the festival takes place.
Organizers expect this year's event to shatter that record.
"We always expect to grow every year," said Chris Rudisill, executive director of St. Pete Pride. "The event is starting to expand, even beyond the day of (the parade)."
On Thursday, organizers hosted a reception commemorating the June 1969 Stonewall riots. Tonight, there's a fashion show at Macy's at Tyrone Square Mall and parties at St. Pete Beach's Postcard Inn and various Grand Central restaurants.
Everything culminates Saturday with the parade and street festival. It's the biggest such celebration in the state and one of the largest in the country.
Think lots of beads, bright costumes and tons of people.
"It's just a great time," said Scott Turner, president of the organization's board of directors. "It's a full day."
More than 100 floats — 12 of them full-sized — are expected to be in this year's parade, Turner said. There also will be a "kid zone," featuring a bounce house and other family-friendly activities.
St. Petersburg's celebration is unique because it puts the parade and street festival in one place, Turner said.
Both he and Rudisill said their favorite moment comes on Saturday when they're able to view the crowd from atop a scissor lift.
"When you go up on that lift and it's thousands of people," Turner said, "it's all worth it."
Kameel Stanley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8643.