I was feeling haughty halfway, a regular Inspector Clouseau. It was fun and easy to tick off six of 12 finds on Once Upon A Shine: A Gay Mural Scavenger Hunt. Then came seven.
The clue was something about ribbons and a bank and dollar bills, and I wandered the Edge District for a long time, sweating and alone, before deciding it was time to cheat. Yes, children! There comes a time to cheat.
You see, I wanted to tell you about this event while you still had time to participate. Jenee Priebe, associate director of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance’s SHINE Mural Festival, let me try it early. And she kindly helped me find Mural Seven after I sent a message that said, calmly, “HELP!”
What is a Gay Mural Scavenger Hunt? I thought you’d never ask.
St. Pete Pride organizers wanted to spread-out ways to celebrate as we crawl out of a pandemic. They teamed with SHINE and Matthew McGee, a brilliant St. Petersburg actor and drag performer. Here’s how it works:
There’s an app called PixelStix. No! Don’t zone out because I said “app!” It’s cool, free and easy to use. You start at the Hollander Hotel, alone or in teams, Saturday through June 19. McGee appears on your phone. The creators first floated the idea of him being Cinderella.
“I’m on the other side of 45,” he told them. “Cinderella is gone.”
Fairy Godmother, it was. The story goes, Cinderella partied hard in St. Pete, and “today, she’s forlorn, and sadly, bedridden.” She lost one of her Jimmy Choos.
“It’s a size 14,” Fairy Godmother says. “Would we really call that a slipper, or would we call that a boat?”
It’s up to us to find the shoe and learn something about LGBTQ history along the way, like the origin of the rainbow flag. Each stop has a challenge — do a catwalk strut, dance to a club song, leave a message of love and so on. Hunters win prizes, including a stay at the new Tru by Hilton on Central Avenue.
No spoilers. Almost every square inch of downtown St. Petersburg is painted with a mural of some kind, and the ones on the hunt aren’t always obvious. The search spans the waterfront to Mirror Lake to the Deuces district.
You can drive or ride a bike; bikes are handy to avoid parking. Organizers say it takes two to three hours. If you have a sense of direction, I am so happy for you! With lunch, it took me all day. Plan to eat and charge your phone.
It helps to have someone with a working knowledge of St. Petersburg: for instance, know the geographic difference between Metro Inclusive Health and the Metro LGBTQ Welcome Centre (AGGRESSIVE WINK).
Most importantly, remember why you’re there.
McGee and I caught up on the phone before the hunt. This year has refocused so many priorities, we agreed, and one of them is safety.
That word has come up compulsively during the pandemic, in the literal sense. But what about people who spent the past year stuck in a house with those who didn’t accept them? People who faced aggression and violence, because of their gender expression, sexual orientation or race? Because they were trying to live in the world?
Pride exists for celebration, yes. But the goal is for that sense of safety to filter into the other months.
“People laugh about how LGBTQ has gotten longer and longer,” McGee said. “But it’s gotten longer because it has always been such an inclusive group. I hope it gets longer and longer.”
Oh, so, there is an actual Cinderella shoe at the end of all this. I’m sitting in the spot right now, writing this column. But I’ll never tell.
If you go
Participate in Once Upon a Shine: A Gay Mural Scavenger Hunt from Saturday through June 19. For full details, visit stpeteartsalliance.org/PRIDE.
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