ST. PETERSBURG — With its public parks brimming with live music and event goers nearly every weekend, it's safe to say that this is a festival town.
On tap this weekend is one of the biggest and liveliest festivals of all, St. Pete Pride. The largest event of its kind in the state, now in its 12th year, the celebration of the LGBT community has morphed into a multi-day party that attracts attendees from across the Southeast.
This year, the Pride Parade will move from daytime to the evening, beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday. Newly elected Mayor Rick Kriseman also will participate in the festival, the first time for a St. Petersburg mayor.
This year's festival theme is Global Equality. It was chosen, in part, to show solidarity with LGBT communities worldwide that targeted with violence and persecution.
“Pride is a movement that goes beyond our own boundaries; it's a global cause of liberation, commemoration, and celebration of the LGBT community,” Eric Skains, Executive Director, said in a written statement. “We will let the world know this year that St. Pete and Tampa Bay stand with them in their individual struggles for equality, where ever it might be, just as we come together in our own community.”
For many years the event largely was limited to the Kenwood and Grand Central districts — the parade runs from Georgie's Alibi at 31st Street and Third Avenue North to Central Avenue, where it travels about 10 blocks eastward. This year, a series of events in and around downtown will expand the celebration's geographical footprint.
Its main draws, a parade and a street festival, also have been scheduled on separate days in anticipation of large crowds.
The festivities kickeded off at 9 a.m. today with the Pride flag raising ceremony at City Hall, followed by other activities leading to the Stonewall Reception in the evening, which has a guest list that includes former governor and current gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist.
At 7 p.m. Friday, the party continues at the State Theatre, 687 Central Ave., where Hunter Valentine of “The Real L-Word” fame, singer Mary Lambert (Macklemore's “Same Love” vocalist), Kill the Sound and others will perform at a fundraiser benefitting St. Pete Pride's community grants program. An after-party will follow at Georgie's Alibi.
Saturday's events begin at 5 p.m. with a block party on Central Avenue between 22nd and 27th streets.
The parade begins at 7 and grand marshals will be St. Petersburg City Councilwoman Darden Rice, and LGBT and HIV awareness activist Jay Aller.
The event also will offer “Glamstands,” a VIP section where attendees may view the parade from a set of centrally located bleachers with food, open bar access and air-conditioned private restrooms.
Sunday's Pride Festival starts at 11 a.m., and will feature several stages with live entertainment.
As with any major event in St. Petersburg, parking will be at a premium in the Grand Central and Kenwood areas, so it's recommended that attendees arrive early, or use the Trolley that runs from downtown St. Petersburg west along Central Avenue.