Writer: Catie Schwartzman
2 min read April 2021 — Organizers had to get creative but the St. Pete Pride Festival will return this year after 2020’s cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though it will be scaled down compared to years past, organizers are working diligently to ensure safety and fun for attendees of the popular event series.
Events will be spread out throughout the month of June with four themed weeks — Outdoor Adventure Week, Family Week, Arts & Music Week and Taste of PrideFest Week — each week concluding with a signature event. The “unofficial” start is the Miss St. Pete Pride Pageant at Postcard Inn on the Beach on May 23. Festivities will formally begin with an Official Pride Flag Raising at City Hall and will close with Pride Picnic & Fireworks at North and South Straub Park on June 26. With limited attendance and the omission of the acclaimed parade, Mayor Rick Kriseman intends to mitigate COVID-19 spread as the fight is not yet over.
“Parades are difficult,” said Kriseman to WFLA News Channel 8. “They are difficult to manage and it’s difficult to create that environment with a parade where people feel safe.”
Ticketing is another enforcement strategy the festival is employing to keep an eye on attendee numbers. “The goal being to still give the local LGBTQIA+ community the opportunity to gather, educate and celebrate but also ensure safety and wellness in the face of COVID-19,” a Pride spokesperson wrote in an email to Tampa Bay Channel 10 News, “This year most events will be ticketed to enforce capacity regulations.”
The St. Pete Pride Festival typically draws a wide audience — 2019 saw more than 265,000 attendees — and is the largest LGBTQ+ celebration in Florida. But St. Pete Pride Board President and Director Nathan Bruemmer has kept level expectations about what to expect for 2021’s celebration. He said at a press conference on April 12 that he hopes people celebrate independently throughout the month and keep spirits high.
“Right now we have limited attendance as the requirement for each of the event spaces based on where we sit right now with COVID,” said Bruemmer. “But that’s why we want and encourage all of our partners to hold events … and so while our attendance is not going to be 265,000, if hundreds of events are happening over every day in June, we will all be celebrating pride and diversity in our city.”
St. Pete Pride is important to both St. Pete’s tourism sector and St. Pete’s identity.
“Celebrating Pride is more than just a parade and it’s more than just the events. It’s what it represents and how it defines us as a community,” said Kriseman to Tampa Bay Channel 10 News.
Debbie Safko, owner of gelato company Paciugo, said she is enthusiastic about the festivities as well as the business influx in spite of the different format for the year.
“I’m like, oh man, the parade is a lot of fun. We get a lot of really fun customers in here and it’s a great day. A lot of energy and obviously great for the business,” said Safko to WFLA News Channel 8. “We’ll take what we can get. Something is better than nothing. And I think it will be a lot of fun spreading it out over the month and a lot of activities.”