The Grand Central District looks to celebrate coming out this October with a new event

By : Jeremy Williams
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St. Petersburg – The Grand Central District Association announced plans for a series of events in St. Petersburg and Gulfport in October that will celebrate the LGBTQ community in the bay area in conjunction with National Coming Out Day Oct. 11.

“We want to acknowledge the importance of coming out and celebrate it in St. Pete,” says Shawn Connelly, Committee Chair for Come Out St. Pete. “What is also great about the timing of it is it will run concurrently with the Tampa Bay International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (TIGLFF), which occurs every October. Our timeline will follow along that festival so we are collaborating with them on the planning and implementing of these events.”

TIGLFF is scheduled to run Oct 6-14. While TIGLFF will be Come Out St. Pete’s primary event partner, they will also be joining together with several organizations throughout the St. Petersburg area to create an array of events during the week.

“It’s still very early in the planning process,” Connelly says. “So details like times and places aren’t all 100 percent confirmed, but we do have several events that we know we want to happen.”

These events include a community march in the Grand Central Business District, a family values picnic in Gulfport and a street fair with various vendors along Central Ave.

“We are planning to have an event called A Taste of Grand Central, similar to the Taste of Pride events you see every year. It will be a sampling of different restaurants and vendors in the St. Petersburg area,” Connelly says. “We will also partner with TIGLFF on several films – one being shown at the Mahaffey Theater, one being played at Straub Park, as well as a TIGLFF closing party in St. Pete that weekend.”

In addition, they also hope to finalize a Sunday T-Dance at the Flamingo Resort, and they will possibly include a beach party in the mix.

The Come Out St. Pete committee, who is organizing these events, is a subcommittee under the Grand Central District Association, a 501c3 non-profit organization that works to support and promote the Grand Central District’s economic revitalization in an effort to make it a retail, dining and entertainment destination for St. Petersburg visitors and residents.

The announcement of the newly formed Come Out St. Pete committee comes less than a month after St. Pete Pride and the city of St. Petersburg came to an agreement to move June’s Pride parade downtown while leaving the Pride street festival in Grand Central. Originally, St. Pete Pride was going to move both the parade and street festival downtown but mayor Rick Kriseman threatened to pull city funding if they did so.

While many in the Grand Central District expressed displeasure in the move and talk of a rival Pride event made its way through the inner circles, Connelly says that the decision to have a coming out celebration in October has nothing to do with St. Pete Pride or any of the decisions they made in moving downtown.

“This is a new community event that is certainly not meant to detract from or is in opposition to St. Pete Pride. This is a new event specifically meant to celebrate coming out and to add value to some of the other great events we have in the area,” Connelly says. “And this isn’t just for the LGBTQ community to come out, but also for our allies to come out and join us. We want to promote inclusiveness and promote acceptance and encourage a sense of community throughout St. Petersburg and the surrounding areas.”

More information on the organization and upcoming events will be coming out soon. The official website, ComeOutStPete.org, will be up and running within the next few weeks.

“Everyone will be able to find information there related to our events, find out more about our organization and they will also be able to share their coming out stories,” Connelly says.

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