ST. PETERSBURG — St. Pete Pride, one of the country's largest gay pride events, is planning a Saturday night parade next June to give festival-goers relief from the heat. Its street festival will be split off into a separate event the following morning.
"Paradegoers will no longer have to compete for viewing space with exhibitors' tents, making it easier to view the parade," St. Pete Pride executive director Eric Skains said. "This allows for more viewing spaces and we anticipate more elaborate parade entries as organizations will have more time to decorate and build their entry."
St. Petersburg puts on one of the biggest gay pride parades in the country, drawing 80,000 to 100,000 people in previous years. There are usually more than 100 floats decked out in rainbow colors, with performers and entertainers.
The change, organizers said, is in response to attendees who have complained about the heat from a summer parade in Florida. The parade route would be the same, beginning at Georgie's Alibi, 3100 Third Ave. N, and moving to Central Avenue to about 21st Street.
Skains said he won't apply for city permits until January, but said he has had several discussions with city officials, businesses and Kenwood neighborhood groups to get their endorsement for a Saturday evening event on June 28.
City Council member Jeff Danner said he heard about the change Wednesday night and thinks it's a great idea because it will appeal to more people who may want to make a weekend out of it.
"I think the night parade will be a lit up, interesting and cooler event," he said.
Skains said he doesn't expect any worries that a nighttime parade would have a rowdier, more Ybor City-type atmosphere.
"For some reason that bay that divides us gives our events a different feel" from Ybor's party zone, Skains said. "We have the nighttime parade for the Grand Prix, for example, and it's a different feel, a different aspect."
He said Pride organizers also promise to have stepped-up patrols and a "safe and sober" zone with no alcohol consumption so that the atmosphere is more family-oriented. He expects to start the parade at sunset and be done by 10 p.m.
The festival will continue on Sunday from 9 a.m to 4 p.m., which this year will add a new Street Colour Fest, with colorful (and washable) powder thrown about, and it will have a family zone featuring rides and games, a wellness zone and live music throughout the day.
"We know this is a new challenge for floats in the parade and we're going to hold several workshops in the new year as a way of offering tips on how to decorate so your entry can be the most visible," Skains said.
The organization will announce the workshops on StPetePride.com.
Last year's parade and festival drew 120,000 people, Skains said, and the revamped festival is anticipating 20,000 people for the daytime festival and "we are pushing for 150,000" for next year's night parade.
"We think we will be able to draw people who didn't want to come before because it was too hot or too early in the morning. Plus there's no other LGBT night parade in Florida."