St. Petersburg, Florida -- St. Pete's Pride parade is set to roll through St. Petersburg at the end of June with some major changes this year.
It often attracts more than a 100,000 people, and maybe more now that the event is expanding to three days, not just one. Also. the parade itself taking place at night.
And for the first time ever: "The Mayor of St. Petersburg will march in the parade this year," promised Mayor Rick Kriseman.
In fact, Kriseman says for first time the City will encourage its employees, including uniformed police and firefighters, to participate too.
"We want to provide a nice, safe environment, but we don't want to be overly intrusive," said the Mayor.
It's a seismic shift for St. Petersburg, which has always welcomed the event's economic impact with open arms – but that was about it.
They've been working closely to ensure the presumably-rowdier night-time parade won't get out of hand, and most residents didn't seemed too worried.
"I think it's going to actually add, probably, more people to be able to be part of it," said resident Desirae Hirschman.
The three-day event will include a Friday night concert and Pride Festival on Sunday, pumping millions into the local economy. Mayor Kriseman, who also recently announced the creation of an LGBT community liaison, calls it smart business. He adds companies often look to communities that embrace diversity as they consider places to move. But Pride organizers say for them, it's about much more than money.
"You know, it's really nice to know that we have an open door into the mayor's office if we have any type of concern that we need to address," says St. Pete Pride Director Eric Skains, "We're pretty stoked to see the changes that are happening. Not just with our event, but the impact that it's having on the community."
Parade organizers say even though the Pride parade will be at night, they also want to keep it family-friendly. So, part of the parade route will move past Seminole park in the Historic Kenwood neighborhood.
Skains says it will be a no alcohol zone and the park has a playground for the kids too.
In years past, there have been some confrontations with protesters who jeer at the parade participants. This year they will still have what they call the "free speech zone," but organizers have been working closely with city police to make sure the night-time crowd doesn't get out of hand.