The St. Pete’s Pride festival and parade returns this weekend — 20 years after the city’s first-ever festival — after the parade was canceled for the past two years due to the pandemic.
The city of St. Petersburg kicked off Pride Month with events on June 1 and expects 310,000 people to visit the city throughout the month.
“We are actually the largest Pride festival in the Southeastern United States. So having that notoriety really helps people understand how welcoming St. Pete is to celebrate all month,” said Jim Nixon, LGBTQ Liaison Officer for the St. Pete Mayor’s Office.
The city hosted its very first festival in the Greater Central District 20 years ago.
“This is one of the first gay neighborhoods where the LGBTQ community really laid the foundation for our community,” Nixon explained.
“Growing up here, I remember being in school, I wasn’t really out,” said Hayley Martz, co-owner of Mixer’s at Old Key West Bar and Grill. “Now it feels like the friendliest city, it’s honestly a beautiful thing to see.”
This year, the city expects about 50,000 more people to come than in 2019, when 260,000 people generated an economic impact of $62 million.
“With people coming out of the pandemic wanting to be more involved to be more visible, especially at a time when we’re seeing hateful rhetoric from Tallahassee, we expected to be bigger this year, we expect a higher economic impact and we saw in 2019,” Nixon said.
Visit St. Pete Clearwater (VSPC) President Steve Hayes told ABC Action News they see interest growing every year.
“The event as the main reason for travel… it was 89% in 2019, but it went up to 91% in 2021,” Hayes said.
As VSPC sees more and more people choosing to stay in private homes with family or friends, hotel occupancy rates have already increased by 5% between the first week of June and the second week.
“With the event spanning a month, it gives multiple periods for people to go and do something where previously they focused everything on a weekend,” explained Hayes.
But it’s not just one month of the year. Pride flags are still flying in St. Petersburg, with several businesses with LGBTQ owners and allies.
Mixers is one such company.
“Technically we are not considered a gay bar. We’re allies because we want to welcome straight gay, lesbian, whatever you are, we welcome everyone,” Martz said.
“One of the really great things about the City of St. Pete is that we’ve scored perfect on the Municipal Equality Index for Human Rights Campaigns for eight straight years,” s exclaimed Nixon. “These things are the basis for business development, tourism, relocation, it really speaks to the livability of our city.”
When the city was unable to host the parade during the pandemic, they painted a Progressive Pride mural at the intersection of Central Avenue and 25 Avenue, where the very first parade began.
Not only does this attract more business, but its message travels across the country on social media.
“The mural actually brings quite an attraction. We get a lot of people wanting to take pictures and most of them also promote our back panel, which also helps,” Martz said.
The PSTA will be free all weekend from June 25-26, with parks-n-rides to the downtown parade.
Parade festivities begin at 2 p.m. along the parade route. The parade begins at 4 p.m. on June 25. It runs from Vinoy Park to Albert Whittard Park along Bayshore Drive.
St. Pete Pride 2022: Everything you need to know
North Straub Park will feature a variety of local vendors, food trucks, DJs and a beer garden. South Straub Park will be a 21+ space with a DJ, food and bars, and vendors. At night, South Straub will transform into a female, non-binary pop-up nightclub from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
On Sunday, June 26, there will be a street carnival in the Grand Central District from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The parade and festival are free.
Additionally, for the first time, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge will be rainbow lit for an entire week for the first time, June 22-29.