ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — St. Pete’s Pride festival and parade return this weekend after the parade was canceled for the last 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 travel to the city throughout the month.
“We’re actually the largest Pride festival in the southeast United States. So having that notoriety really helps people understand how welcoming St. Pete is to celebrate all month long,” said St. Pete Mayor’s Office LGBTQ Liaison Jim Nixon.
The city hosted its very first festival in the Grand Central District 20 years ago.
“It’s one of the original gayborhoods where the LGBTQ community really set a foundation for our community,” Nixon explained.
“Growing up here, I remember being in school, I wasn’t really out,” said Mixers at Old Key West Bar and Grill Co-Owner Hayley Martz. “Now it’s like, this is the most welcoming city, it’s honestly a beautiful thing to see.”
This year the city is expecting 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 and wanting to be more involved in being more visible, especially in a time when we see some hateful rhetoric out of Tallahassee, we expected to be larger this year, we expect to be 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 a primary reason for the trip… it was 89% in 2019, but that rose up to 91% in 2021,” Hayes said.
While VSPC finds that more people are choosing to stay in private homes with family or friends, hotel occupancy was already up 5% from the first week of June to the second week.
“With the event extending to a month-long, it gives multiple time periods for people to go and do something where previously they focused everything on one weekend,” Hayes explained.
But it’s also not just one month out of the year. Pride flags are always flying in St. Petersburg, with several businesses with LGBTQ owners and allies.
Mixers is one of those businesses.
“We’re not technically considered a gay bar. We’re allied because we want to welcome straight gay, lesbian, whatever you are we welcome everybody,” Martz said.
“One of the things that’s really great about the city of St. Pete is we’ve scored a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaigns Municipal Equality Index for eight years in a row,” Nixon exclaimed. “Those things are the foundation for business development, tourism, relocation, it really talks to the livability of our city.”
When the city couldn’t host the parade during the pandemic, they painted a Progressive Pride mural on the intersection of Central Avenue and 25 Avenue, where the very first parade began.
Not only does it bring in 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 that want to take pictures and most of them to promote our sign in the back too which also helps,” Martz said.
PSTA will be free all weekend June 25-26, with park-n-rides to the parade downtown.
Parade festivities start at 2 p.m. along the parade route on June 25. The parade kicks off at 4 p.m. It goes from Vinoy Park to Albert Whitted Park along Bayshore Drive.
St. Pete Pride 2022: Everything you need to know
North Straub Park will host a variety of local vendors, food trucks, DJ, 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 be transformed into a woman and non-binary pop-up nightclub from 7-10 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.
Also, for the first time, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge will be lit rainbow for an entire week for the first time, from June 22 to the 29.