The St. Pete LGBT Pride Parade is moving to downtown St. Pete.
But is it a done deal?
Traditionally held in the Historic Kenwood neighborhood and Grand Central District, officials with the annual festival now say the parade in 2017 will move to a downtown staging location, beginning at Albert Whitted Park and proceed along Bayshore Drive to Vinoy Park.
Officials say this route crosses fewer intersections than the current route, which will make it easier to secure and provides fewer points of potential intrusion. They also say it will provide additional space for parade viewing.
“In 2016 we had an independent economic impact survey conducted that found 50 percent of attendees come from outside of Pinellas County and stay an average of 2.6 nights,” says Eric Skains, executive director of St. Pete Pride. “Since the change from a one-day to a multiday event, the economic impact has grown from $10-million to over $20-million. By giving more options to attendees, we hope this impact will continue to grow as the event becomes more accessible to them.”
In a statement issued Thursday, St. Pete Pride officials say that the current parade staging area at 31st St. N. and Third Avenue N. is slated for redevelopment. Multiple new locations were reviewed, including an option utilizing the Tropicana Field parking lot for parade staging.
“With a focus on security of attendees, production costs, and the potential for growth, the St. Pete Pride Board was presented with the downtown St. Petersburg option for consideration at December’s board meeting,” says the statement.
Organizers say the three-day celebration will include a Friday night event in the Grand Central District, a Saturday evening parade along Bayshore Drive, and a Sunday Festival in Vinoy Park.
“It was extremely important to the board that the Grand Central District remain part of St. Pete Pride Weekend,” says Skains. “Grand Central will always be a special place for the LGBTQ community. We fully intend to work closely with the district to ensure the Friday night event is supported by our sponsors and marketed equally with the parade and festival.”
Not everyone is down with the move.
Former City Councilman Jeff Danner wrote on his Facebook page: “It is a shame this Board has abandoned its roots and the community that started Pride. Grand Central and Historic Kenwood supported it back when others did not.”
His page was filled with comments from residents who live in Kenwood and the Grand Central District who are not pleased with the decision, and many apparently will be taking up City Council Chair Amy Foster’s comment that people should contact Mayor Rick Kriseman to oppose the move.
“I recommend everyone make their voice heard on this issue to the Mayor,” Foster wrote. “I have had one conversation with him yesterday, and he opposes the move but needed to have more discussions on Pride’s contract.”