Changes Coming to St. Pete Pride?

By : Aaron Drake
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The tumult in the community over big changes happening to the St. Petersburg Pride Festival and Parade can simmer down a bit: It appears St. Pete Pride isn’t going anywhere in 2016.

There is no doubt a shift on the horizon, with chatter that Pride is moving the parade and festival to Downtown or possibly the new pier once it is completed, which is estimated for fall 2018. And there’s a possibility St. Pete might be building to become a candidate to host World Pride in the near future, which will take a literal village (or city) to make happen.
According to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s office, when he took office he offered city funding for St. Pete Pride for the first time, totaling $35,000 in 2014 and again in 2015. Also what many in the community don’t know is that Pride has a two-year contract with the city for the festival to remain in Grand Central through this year in order to keep those funds.

“To that end, the mayor has said that Pride can hold its celebration wherever it wishes, including Downtown,” says Robert Danielson, LGBT liaison to the mayor.“But if it wants to receive city funding as spelled out in the contract with the city, it would need to remain in Grand Central and Kenwood this year.”

At a recent St. Pete Pride planning meeting, an adjusted parade route was discussed, but it is still pending approval. The suggested route is Tropicana to Central, west to 28th street. The festival will still be held on Central Avenue in Grand Central District as it has in past years.

“All of that is still being planned out, so there’s no map for the parade,” executive director of St. Pete Pride Eric Skains says. “The festival will essentially stay the same, but again, it’s still being worked on for a few changes. Some aspects, such as the staging area, are in question until the end of March – which is new for us as we’ve never had to wait this long for verification. We won’t be staging at the Trop right now.We submitted a plan to the city to block off five streets within the Kenwood neighborhood to stage the parade.”

Interestingly enough, the original deal to sell Georgie’s Alibi, where the parade staging area was held prior to the bar closing late last year, fell through and has not been resold. Georgie’s did not respond for comment.

As the largest Pride celebration in Florida with more than 250,000 people attending last year, there’s a reason there has been such heated arguments coming from both sides of the community. There’s a ringing din about the importance of Pride staying a community event in the neighborhood where it started—while others are simply worried that there are those who want to capitalize off of its success, potentially at the detriment to the event itself.

“Mayor and city staff met with Pride on a few occasions this year and listened to their concerns about moving the parade Downtown,” Danielson says. “Mayor Kriseman has been one of Pride’s most ardent and longtime supporters. When the festival began in the early 2000s, then Councilmember Rick Kriseman was the first one to sign the Pride Proclamation when the city’s mayor refused to do so. When he was elected, one of his pledges was to spread city investments into all corners of the city, and not just focus on Downtown.

“The mayor sees Pride as a key economic development driver for the businesses in Grand Central and heard from many of them about their desire to have Pride remain in the neighborhood,” Danielson adds.

Some in the community seem to be placated Pride isn’t relocating for now, but no doubt the wind of change is there, along with what appears to resemble growing pains. St. Pete is no longer the hidden gem of Florida’s west coast that it once was. The city announced earlier this year that it would host the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association’s global conference in 2017, bringing travel professionals from all over the world to experience the city.

It’s clear there’s no shortage of things that St. Pete has to be proud of, so there is obviously plenty of potential for future pride celebrations – like a concert or fireworks Downtown, or even possibly a celebration at the beach.

“I’m happy that it is staying in the district at least another year,” says Brian Longstreth, a founder of St. Pete Pride and owner of Gay St. Pete House, Punky’s and Your Neighborhood Realty, the latter two located in the Grand Central District. “I still don’t think it’s a good idea to totally change a successful event for a one-time conference, and I don’t think it will fit well Downtown.”

“We’re working with Pride to ensure the festival is a success as it has been in previous years,” Danielson continues. “We love and treasure St. Pete Pride, and look forward to its future growth and hopefully hosting a World Pride Celebration in the years ahead.”

“The Grand Central District has been proud to be a partner with St. Pete Pride since its inception,” Grand Central District Association president Jeff Danner says in a statement. “We are happy they are staying in the district. We believe this is their home and look forward to many more years of hosting this great event.”

St. Pete Pride remains tight-lipped on any further developments for now. Skains says,“We’ll have details at [St. Pete Pride’s] kick-off event, which is the first part of April.”

We’re all ears.

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