Now in its 15th year, the St. Pete Pride celebration will draw 200,000 people to a new parade route Saturday along downtown's scenic waterfront. It has grown into the largest gay pride parade in the Southeast and keeps evolving.
For the first time, this year's parade will kick off with a TransPride March consisting of transgender and gender-nonconforming communities and their supporters. They will gather at 6 p.m. at Albert Whitted Park and march north along Bayshore and meet up with the St. Pete Pride Parade starting point.
The parade is surpassing its own records this year with 40 floats and more than 100 contingents, stepping off at North Straub Park on Bayshore Drive at 7 p.m., followed by fireworks at 9:45 p.m.
"I think overall it will seem a little different this year," said Eric Skains, executive director of St. Pete Pride. "It makes it easier for people within walking distance of hotels and there's a much larger number of restaurants and bars participating and holding events that will really help people stay in St. Petersburg after the event."
It was in June of 1969 that the gay community stood up to a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York's Greenwich Village neighborhood. The series of sometimes violent demonstrations is considered a turning point in the gay rights movement and has turned June into Gay Pride Month around the country.
The St. Petersburg event has swelled into more than a full week of activities and parties that organizers said has developed to have an economic impact of more $20 million. And not without some growing pains.
Moving the parade with thousands of revelers from the gay-friendly Grand Central District along Central Avenue to the scenic waterfront brought a showdown with City Hall. In the end, organizers won the right to move the parade downtown, but kept Sunday's street festival in Grand Central.
Past mayors have refused to attend one of the city's largest events, making it a political hot button. Being an election year, current mayor Rick Kriseman is touting his embrace of Pride. In 2012, he was the first mayor to be one of the parade's grand marshals. His opponent, former mayor Rick Baker, never attended the parade while in office but has said it is important to embrace the LGBT community.
A free concert from 7-10 p.m. on Friday in Straub Park will be a fundraiser for local nonprofits. On Saturday, there will be continuous music in Straub Park and vendors starting at 2 p.m. The parade will start at Fifth Avenue NE at North Straub Park at 7 p.m. and run about a mile south on Bayshore Drive to Albert Whitted Park along the downtown waterfront, followed by fireworks. Sunday's street festival from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Central Avenue at 25th Street will have more than 350 vendors, multiple stages, live music, art and food.
There will be a free park and ride at St. Petersburg High School, 2501 Fifth Ave. N, from noon to midnight on Saturday. And the Central Avenue Trolley will run until 2:30 a.m. PSTA also has several routes serving the area if you want to park remotely. See psta.net for maps and schedules or call the InfoLine at (727) 540-1900.
This is the parade's fourth year as a nighttime spectacle with 40 decorated floats and nearly 150 marching contingents, among them PSTA making its first appearance in a full-sized bus covered in lights. The parade comes with a dazzling array of sequins, beads, dancing, music, glitter and rainbows. Be on the lookout for popular favorites like the ROTC (Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps).
The parade has four grand marshals, female impersonator Kori Stevens; the Rev. Candace R. Shultis of King of Peace Metropolitan Community Church; Largo city commissioner Michael Smith; and activist Ed Lally of Equality Florida. There's also an organizational grand marshal this year in Project No Labels, a relatively new organization in the Tampa Bay LGBT community that focuses on volunteerism, social events and fundraising activities for other nonprofits.
MORE PRIDE EVENTS
St. Pete Pride Rooftop Kick-Off Party
Kick off St. Pete Pride at this party with panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico and the Intracoastal Waterway, live entertainment, Cabana Boy Cocktails and Spanish-influenced Topaz. No cover. Castile Rooftop Bar at Hotel Zamora, 3701 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. (727) 342-0084. 7-9 p.m. Thursday.
Out of the Shadows: LGBTQ Homeless Youth Project
Video footage of theatrical performances depicting challenges facing displaced LGBTQ youth in Pinellas County. A question and answer session follows. Free. Gulfport Public Library, 5501 28th Ave. S, Gulfport. (727) 893-1075. Noon Thursday.
Proud 4 Pride
Show your pride through a rainbow of colors at this party with free appetizers and one free drink. $15 (includes a T-shirt). Kona Grill, 4134 W Boy Scout Blvd., Tampa. (727) 373-6988. 6-10 p.m. Thursday.
St. Pete Pride SP2 Concert
A mix of various bands and local singers including Geri X, The Spazmatics and Melissa Crispo. Beverage sales benefit the St. Pete Pride Community Grants Program. Free. North Straub Park, Fifth Avenue NE and Bayshore Drive, St. Petersburg. 7-10 p.m. Friday.
Pride on the Bay
Popular drag performer Kori Stevens hosts this floating sunset cruise party with an old school jam on the lower deck, techno and house on the middle deck and open format on the upper deck. Also live entertainment and two drag shows. $59. Port of St. Petersburg, 250 Eighth Ave. SE, St. Petersburg. (727) 342-0084. 6-9 p.m. Friday.
Party on the Port
For those with weak sea legs, there a land party at the embarkation point for the Pride on the Bay Yacht Party that includes music, food vendors and a cash bar. Free. Port of St. Petersburg, 250 Eighth Ave. SE, St. Petersburg. (727) 342-0084. 4 p.m. Friday.
Steam Fridays: Feeling Proud
Be loud and proud at this pre-pride celebration with special guest DJ Drew G, $1 drinks from 9 to 10 p.m., $3 Svedka cocktails from 9 to 11 p.m. and a drag show by Amy DeMilo and cast. Free, $5 after 9:30 p.m. The Honey Pot, 1507 E Seventh Ave., Tampa. (813) 247-4663. 9 p.m. Friday.
Popular Key West performer Randy Roberts kicks off St. Pete Pride with a drag tribute to Cher, Bette Midler and more. Includes a signature drink. $35. The Birchwood, 340 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 896-1080. 10 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday.
Miss McGee's Big, Bawdy Box "o" Drag
Miss Matthew McGee hosts a drag variety show featuring make-up master Kaotica Divine, bearded lady Adriana Sparkle and Latina Goddess Lady Janet. The party includes $12 rainbow daiquiris and $3 rainbow shots. No cover. Bay Harbor Hotel, 7700 Courtney Campbell Parkway, Tampa. (813) 281-8900. Shows at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Friday.
One Love: Pride with No Labels
Say the secret password at the door for entrance to this speakeasy era party with casino gaming including black jack, roulette, craps, burlesque, aerial performances, pole dancers and a drag show. Password given at time of ticket purchase. $15-$50. State Theatre, 687 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 342-0084. 10:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday.
Pride and A Movie: A Very Sordid Wedding
This installment of the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival Monthly Screening for Pride features the premiere of A Very Sordid Wedding. The sequel to Sordid Lives brings a gay marriage and turmoil to the rural town of Winters, Texas. There is also a VIP package including special admission and an autographed copy of the television series. A VIP comedy dinner package also includes special admission and an autographed copy of the television series. $20, $50 VIP, $125 VIP Dinner. Sundial 20, 151 Second Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (813) 879-4220. 8 p.m. Friday.
In conjunction with St. Pete Pride, Congregation B'nai Isreal holds the second annual Shabbat service celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning Jews, friends and family. Florida State Representative Ben Diamond serves a guest speaker with music by Cantor Jonathan Schultz. Participants receive custom designed skull caps and a cocktail oneg reception follows the service. Free. Congregation B'nai Israel, 300 58th St. N, St. Petersburg. 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday.
George Michael Tribute Unveiling
Sip on complimentary "I Want Your Sextinis" at the unveiling of a new George Michael tribute painting by Hollywood artist Adam Scott Rote. Free. Ocean Blue Galleries, 284 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 502-2583. 4-6:30 p.m. Saturday.
St. Pete Pride After Party
Billboard Reporting DJ Bruce Devery spins the dance music for this party with exotic male dancers, Absolut boys serving up samples and a Divas Drag show featuring Eden Deck, Elaine Souther Belle, Lady Janet and Star Montrese Love. Free. Quench Lounge, 13284 66th St. N, Largo. (727) 754-5900. 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday.
St. Pete Pride Bash
Drag performer Kori Stevens, one of this year's Pride Parade grand marshals, moves the party from the parade route to Grand Central for this dance party with music by DJ's Craig Dirty and Blake Blaze.No cover. Enigma, 1110 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 342-0084. 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday.
A gathering of members of the transgender, gender non-conforming, queer communities and their families, friends and supporters. The march ends at the starting point for the St. Pete Pride Parade. Marchers are invited to also join the parade. Free. Albert Whitted Park, 107 Eighth Ave. SE, St. Petersburg. 6 p.m. Saturday.
St. Pete Pride Block Party and Night Parade
St. Pete Pride's popular parade moves to downtown St. Petersburg's scenic waterfront. The block party brings DJs, food and drinks starting at 2 p.m. The parade steps off at 7 p.m. at Fifth Avenue NE with fireworks at 9:45 p.m. Free, $25 bleachers, $50-$600 glamstands. North Straub Park on Bayshore Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 342-0084. 2-10 p.m. Saturday.
St. Pete Pride Festival
The daytime festival covers Central Avenue's Grand Central District with more than 350 vendors, multiple stages, live music, art and food. Free. Grand Central District, 2429 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 342-0084. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
Themis St. Pete Pride
The third annual Pride barbecue with free food, drinks, live music and games. Free. Themis Law Group, 125 28th St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 823-4600. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.