St. Pete Pride board president says the 20th anniversary will be its most ambitious, inclusive and diverse yet

It kicks off Wednesday, June 1.

click to enlarge In the two decades since its launch, the work of thousands of volunteers and partners has not only grown St Pete Pride to become one of the Top 15-largest Pride celebrations in the country.
In the two decades since its launch, the work of thousands of volunteers and partners has not only grown St Pete Pride to become one of the Top 15-largest Pride celebrations in the country.
It’s the 20-year anniversary of St Pete Pride! I feel humbled to sit in the seat of Board President in this landmark moment for our organization and our city. While ‘Board President’ may sound like a lofty title, the reality is this: I’m one of the many hundreds of volunteers who have shown up over the last two decades to link arms with like-minded people and do the hard and joyous work of creating the kind of community we want to live in and share with others.

Twenty years ago, while I was a teenager in London, England, a handful of people across the Atlantic in St. Petersburg, Florida were figuring out what to do in the aftermath of Tampa Pride, which had been crushed by a city commissioner who felt that Pride had no place in Tampa Bay. Rather than retreat back into the shadows or even move away from Florida to a more queer-friendly city, a handful of bold visionaries in the LGBTQ+ community decided to hunker down and raise the rainbow flag even higher on the other side of the bay: St Pete Pride was born!

In the two decades since its launch, the work of thousands of volunteers and partners has not only grown St Pete Pride to become one of the Top 15-largest Pride celebrations in the country but has also been instrumental in shaping the social and cultural landscape of the city as a whole. St. Pete continues to evolve as a bastion of diverse and progressive values in the South, drawing a staggering number of new residents to the area from all over the world, like me, each year.

The 20th Anniversary season will be St Pete Pride’s most ambitious, inclusive and diverse yet. Along with the parade, a month of celebrations will include a Friday Night Concert featuring Todrick Hall and Pussy Riot, a family day for LGBTQ+ youth, families and allies, St Pete Pride’s second official Juneteenth event, and intimate events at The Palladi- um with cultural icons Sandra Bernhard and Carson Kressley.

In a moment when Florida is the national epicenter of LGBTQ+ legislative backlash, the mission of St Pete Pride is more crucial than ever. As Florida’s largest Pride, we have a powerful platform for providing representation, love and support for the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community. Since last season, we’ve expanded our all-volunteer Board of Directors to a diverse group of ten and brought in a dynamic new Executive Director, Nicole Berman. Dozens of partners and community sponsors have stepped up to lend support. Our team of volunteers is wider and deeper than it’s ever been, and we welcome ALL who want to get involved.

Every Pride is someone’s first Pride, and creating that experience for people is an enormous privilege.

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Last year at the family event, a young girl bounded up to me while I worked the merch table and asked if I was one of the people organizing the event. When I told her I was, she gave me a huge smile and outstretched her hand, which was holding a painted, handmade, rainbow clay heart that read “PRIDE.” She told me it was her first Pride ever and that she was so happy to be there, and she thanked me for all I did to make it possible. For the past year, that heart has hung in my kitchen. My wife, three daughters and I talk about it regularly. It’s why I sometimes can’t be home for dinner. Or have to stay up extra late working. It’s why I sometimes can’t join in at Mario Kart, or be the one to pick them up from practice. It’s a symbol of the honor and necessity of serving others.

For me, the heart that hangs in our kitchen represents the heart of St Pete Pride. Every Pride is someone’s first Pride, and creating that experience for people is an enormous privilege. If LGBTQ+ kids, youth, and adults alike are relying on Pride to be one of the only places that they feel safe being their most authentic selves throughout the year, then we’re going to make absolutely sure that Pride Month is the best, happiest, most diverse, and love-filled place it possibly can be. We hope that you will attend this year and agree!
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