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Nationwide, June is Pride Month, and the city of St. Petersburg has various events lined up. The St. Pete Pride we know today, however, might not have existed without some necessary groundwork.
Realtor Brian Longstreth was one of the original founders of St. Pete Pride. Twenty years ago, after speaking with the only City Council member at the time – Rick Kriseman – willing to sign a proclamation recognizing Pride and the LGBTQ+ community, Longstreth worked with others to form what is now known as St. Pete Pride.
“There were several gay-owned businesses and managed companies in the area, and we all kind of got together and said let’s put together a festival that honors more of what the original pride celebration was about,” Longstreth said.
“We didn’t do it as a protest but more as a march and to thank the city that added sexual orientation to their protection clauses the year before. We wanted to take steps to make sure it was successful.”
The first event, in 2003, drew about 10,000 people, with support from 40 or 50 vendors.
“Our focus was making sure it was a family-friendly event for all ages,” Longstreth said. “We used to joke that it was strollers to wheelchairs in our parade route.”
St. Pete Pride has grown into one of the most well-known Pride celebrations in the country. In 2017, it was the first to honor transgender rights.
When Rick Kriseman became the Mayor of St. Petersburg, he participated in the parade.
“He walked in the parade, had other city departments have a more visible participation in the parade. It was also good for the city employees,” Longstreth said.
“I think (the current organizers) have done a good job. The event grew so quickly, back then it was practically doubling in attendance every year. By 2007 it had already become one of the largest Pride celebrations in the United States,” Longstreth said.
Today’s St. Pete Pride parade is acknowledged as the largest such event in Florida. An estimated 300,000 people attended the parade and accompanying festival in 2022.
Cities including Dunedin, Sarasota, Clearwater, Largo and more are hosting various events to commemorate Pride Month and create a safe space for members in the community that want to celebrate Pride in their home city.
“One of the things I find very encouraging is that some of the cities around us that you would never think would have a Pride celebration are doing so and they’re still moving forward, and they’re still trying to be visible in their communities,” Longstreth said.
This year’s parade route will travel through Albert Whitted Park and Vinoy Park along Bayshore Drive starting at 6 p.m. Saturday, while the festival portion begins at 2 p.m. with food trucks, music, prizes and more.
Outside the month of June, there are other LGBTQ+ friendly events and groups that are active throughout the year.
“There’s another organization called Come Out St. Pete that does events that are in October, around Coming Out Day,” Longstreth said.
People can also support businesses owned by local LGBTQ+ individuals to help them be recognized outside of Pride Month.
Longstreth believes Pride is more than just “a house hanging a rainbow flag,” it’s about getting to know and interacting with the people within these houses, hearing their stories, and sharing a human connection with them.
“One of the things I love about St. Pete pride, especially during the street festival, is you got all these people wandering up and down the street, many of them don’t know one another but they’re all smiles and hugs,” he said.
“It is that one day that you can actually get together and kind of take back the street and celebrate the diversity and allies and support from the businesses in the area. It wouldn’t be possible (without them).
“It’s a big project and an expensive series of events. Without that support, we couldn’t do it.”
Peturla Scarlett is a journalism and communications major at University of South Florida St. Petersburg.