Nearly 90 LGBT Pride organizations will descend upon St. Petersburg for the annual Interpride Conference Oct. 15-18 at the Tradewinds Resort. St. Pete Pride, organizers of the state’s largest LGBT Pride event, will host the four-day event.
What to do with nearly 200 guests from Pride organizations from around the world? Well, there’s the downtown waterfront and beautiful Gulf of Mexico, but there’s also work to be done.
“There is a formula for some of this,” said Brian Longstreth, who along with David Schauer helped bring the conference to St. Petersburg. “Certain topics are covered and there is the business that the board has to deal with. But our role is to add some local flavor with nighttime activities and arrangements.”
Longstreth says he and other St. Pete Pride representatives plan to take advantage of the warm weather and sandy beaches. The Interpride Conference has been held in cold regions of the world for the last five years.
“Every one of the rooms we’re providing faces the Gulf, and we’re going to have outdoor activities to show off our beautiful October nights,” Longstreth said.
Nearly half of those registered for the 2009 conference are from outside of the United States, many from Europe. Most LGBT Pride groups bring several representatives to the annual conference, as well as a different perspective.
“In Europe, they’re very strong on human rights,” Schauer said. “When Sweden and England have protests or events, thousands of people will show up.”
Longstreth said the Interpride board features a wide range of experiences from thoughout the worldwide LGBT rights spectrum.
“There are some places in the world where you can still be attacked for simply attending a Pride event,” Longstreth said.
Bringing Interpride to St. Petersburg has been a two year process that included a bidding process not unlike the Olympics.
“When we had the international board here in April, we took them to the beach and spread out a blanket and said, ‘This is what it’s going to be like in October.’ They couldn’t believe it,” Schauer said. “That’s not something you can do in most of Europe this time of year.”
Space is still available if locals want to participate in the conference, Longstreth said. And he hopes that the local LGBT community will support some of the planned nighttime activities.
“We’re holding our Taste of Pride on Friday, Oct. 16, as a block party in downtown St. Petersburg,” Longstreth said. “We’ll have food from several area restaurants and it gives us a chance to show off our beautiful city.”
Longstreth said that the City of St. Petersburg and the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Visitors and Convention Bureau have been instrumental in creating activities for attendees.
On Saturday, Oct. 17, Interpride will bus attendees to the new Flamingo Resort. And the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival has invited conference attendees to view two films at the Muvico Baywalk on Thursday, Oct. 15. The Holocaust Museum in downtown St. Petersburg will also offer a tour to Interpride guests.
“We’re a city of 250,000 people. This year about 80,000 attended St. Pete Pride, and surveys have shown that most of them traveled a significant distance,” Schauer said. “We’re a really friendly place; we have the arts, the beaches. We’re a great example of how a small group of people can pull off an incredible event that is seen around the world.”