St. Pete Pride festivities continuing throughout the weekend send a wonderfully inclusive message. Local officials and the community are fully embracing the events, reflecting growing acceptance in a city that is branding itself as welcoming to all.
The event is an even bigger celebration of gay pride than in previous years, extending to four days of events. Remaining activities include a block party kicking off at 5 p.m. today followed by the first nighttime parade set to begin at sunset. On Sunday, a festival lasting all day will feature more than 300 exhibitors, multiple stages and exhibits.
Mayor Rick Kriseman has taken the lead as the first St. Petersburg mayor to attend the parade since it began in 2002. And Darden Rice, who is one of three openly gay members of the City Council, will be one of the grand marshals at the parade.
In addition to the positive values it reflects, the event is also a boon to the local economy. A study estimated the St. Pete Pride festival in 2012 was the most-attended event in St. Petersburg for an economic impact of $10 million, according to Research Data Services of Tampa. This weekend is expected to top that, generating as much as $18 million.
A celebration of individual progress, this weekend is a proud milestone for the city. It represents a positive direction for the community, one that is tolerant and just, and sets an example for the rest of the state.