For the first time in St. Pete Pride’s 11 year history, the community had an opportunity to select its own grand marshals. On May 16, Pride shared the results of a month-long online voting campaign that generated nearly 4,000 votes.
Mark Bias and Carrie West, owners of MC Film Fest and founders of the GaYbor Coalition, Susan McGrath, president of the Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas County, and Metro Wellness and Community Centers were each chosen in each of their respective categories.
“This chance for the community to vote for its own grand marshals comes at an opportune time,” explained Eric Skains, executive director of St. Pete Pride during the announcement held at Bert Smith BMW in St. Petersburg. “After the firestorm that followed San Francisco Pride’s announcement earlier this year, it proves we’re stepping in the right direction by letting the community make this important decision.”
Skains was referring to San Francisco Pride’s appointment of Bradley Manning as its grand marshal, which created controversy for the pride organization and led to more than 100 people protesting the decision. Manning is the U.S. Army private who plead guilty to leaking classified documents. The board later issued a statement retracting Manning’s nomination saying that since he wasn’t a local resident, he wasn’t eligible for the post.
“I’ve spoken on the phone with representatives from San Francisco Pride,” Skains told the gathering of approximately 100 at the car dealership. “It says a lot when an organization as old and as large as San Francisco Pride pays attention to what we’re doing in St. Petersburg.”
Nominees for grand marshal were selected by community leaders, who were asked who best represents the LGBT community of St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay. Then the community voted in three categories: male identified, female identified and organization.
Other nominees included Watermark editor Steve Blanchard and Trans*Action Florida executive director Michael Keeffe, Tampa Bay Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce administrator Renee Cossette and Sharon Herman, a longtime contributor to several LGBT organizations.
Other organizations up for the title were the AIDS Service Association of Pinellas and PFLAG Tampa.
Bias and West, McGrath and representatives of Metro Wellness and Community Centers will ride in the front of the annual St. Pete Pride promenade along Central Avenue on Saturday, June 29. The parade begins at 10 a.m.