Florida's largest pride weekend expected to draw 175k to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Florida's largest pride weekend is now underway in St. Petersburg.

The festival begins Friday with a concert at the State Theater, leading up to a mile-long pride parade on Saturday.

Planning to go? Read more about the schedule and parade route: http://wfts.tv/1iD2xgc

The St. Pete Pride Weekend is expected to draw a record setting 175,000 people when all is said and done.

"It's celebrating who we are, and it's about letting people know that we're here and we're here to stay. We want equal rights like everybody else," said Robert D'Avanzo, who plans to participate in the weekend party.

New this year, the parade will start around sunset.

Participants may also see a familiar face along the parade route: St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who decided to join the parade -- the first mayor of the town to do so.

"I think it's the right thing to do because I think it represents who we are as a community. We are a community that embraces diversity," Kriseman said.

Those in the LGBT community call it a major step forward.

"It shows that the city finally cares," said Bob Penpeck, who is excited to attend his first pride weekend.

The city's openness is the reason the pride weekend keeps growing. All around town, businesses are waiving pride flags, supporting the LGBT community.

"There is no defined gay district in St. Petersburg, and that's because there really isn't one needed," said Eric Skains, St. Pete Pride executive director.

Those bars and restaurants that roll out the welcome mat get big business in return.

"It is a crazy day. It's the biggest day of the year for us. It's sort of our Superbowl," said Bary Bunts, general manager of Georgia's Alibi in St. Petersburg.

Organizers of the festival recommend participants park downtown and take the trolley to the parade route.
 

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