In the name of love (and fun): St. Pete Pride Fest 2011

A quick overview of events in conjunction with this year's extravaganza.

For the past four decades, the last weekend of June has marked an important time for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community. Hundreds of thousands of people, heterosexual and homosexual alike, hit the streets to celebrate our right to express gender identity and sexual orientation in a tolerant and safe environment, and also to commemorate the bravery of the Stonewall rioters in NYC who sparked the fight for liberation that continues to this day.

St. Pete Pride expects record numbers for this year’s Ninth Annual festival, in comparison to last year’s 80,000 attendees.

Proceeds from the festival will benefit local groups, such as HIV/AIDS assistance organizations and Transgender FORGE. Now you may be wondering where the hottest hangout spots will be pre- and post-parade, so here is a list, made with love, of some of the most entertaining events of the season:

Pride Bingo, Tuesdays, 7-9 p.m., The Queen and I Thai Restaurant, 2140 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Drag queens and bingo, oh my!

The Laramie Project Mon.-Wed., June 20-22, 7 p.m., The [email protected], 620 First Ave. S., St. Petersburg, 727-895-6620. General admission to the moving play about Matthew Shepard is $15 a ticket; students or seniors, $10. Red [email protected] member tickets will be accepted for these performances. Visit Studio620 to purchase tickets.

Stonewall Commemorative Reception, Thurs., June 23, 6-9 p.m., Museum of Fine Arts, 255 Beach Drive., N.E., St. Petersburg. Food and two art exhibitions will be provided for those who have helped make St. Pete Pride a successful organization.

Pride in Fashion Fri., June 24, 6-8:30 p.m., 6901 22nd Ave. N., St. Petersburg. Fashion extravaganza hosted by Macy’s with celebrity guests, including two-time Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir and Alexis Mateo, from RuPaul’s Drag Race. See the latest trends in fashion, including the famous Papi Underwear models and enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres and champagne provided by Barefoot Wine and Bubbly. A $10 suggested donation to the event is requested which Macy’s will return with a $10 gift card to be used on merchandise. All proceeds to benefit St. Pete Pride.

Jagermeister Pre-Party, Fri., June 24, 9 p.m., Georgie’s Alibi, 3100 Third Ave. N., St. Petersburg, 727-321-2112. Dance music, special entertainment, drink specials, giveaways and more.

Ninth Annual St. Pete Pride Promenade, Sat., June 25, 9 a.m. Florida’s largest Pride celebration will feature floats decked out in rainbow colors and the parade’s special guests are LGBT activist, Rev. Troy Perry and Alexis Mateo from RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Ninth Annual St. Pete Pride Street Festival, Sat., June 25, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., from 21st Street to 28th Street of Central Avenue. Vendors galore; following the parade.

ICE Party, Sat., June 25, 3 p.m-12 a.m., Postcard Inn 6300 Gulf Blvd., St. Petersburg. Take a cool dip in the biggest pool on St. Pete Beach at St. Pete Pride's official after party. Drinks, dancing, fireworks and more. $20 Resort Pass required for admission.

Tropical T-Dance, Sun., June 26, 2 p.m-3 a.m, Flamingo Resort, 4601 34th St. S., St. Petersburg. Drink specials, drag queens, male strippers and beachy fun in the sun.

Pride (and Prejudice): A Photo Essay, on display through July 16 at The [email protected], studio620.org. Artist reception on Sat., June 25, from 6 to 9 p.m. The [email protected] displays the evocative photos of Lamar Marchese. The exhibit of large-format color photographs documents the 2009 and 2010 Gay Pride Parade in St. Petersburg in a mix of portraiture and photojournalism (examples featured above). Gallery hours are Wednesday-Saturday noon-4 p.m. The exhibit is free. Read about these events and more at stpetepride.com

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