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St. Pete Pride marks 20th year promising biggest celebration yet

As the event marks a major milestone, organizers say the mission is more critical than ever.
Credit: Stephen Adams

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It hit Tiffany Freisberg when she first started monitoring the comments posted to the St. Pete Pride Facebook page.

The organization’s new president initially had a difficult time filtering through many of what she said were openly homophobic and transphobic posts.

“These weren't trolls, these were real people living right here in St. Pete shamelessly just saying horrible things,” she said. “So I thought, you know what, we're going to make this the gayest city in America.”

For every single kid who might hear a comment like what she was reading, Freisberg said, she made it her mission to ensure they feel 10 times more love to drown it out.

The reality is, she paused, progress is slow.

But through the occasional pessimism, she also likes to remind people of just how much progress has been made in a short period of time.

Watch 10 Tampa Bay's Pride Month special, "Proud to be in the Bay":

The first St. Pete Pride parade was attended by roughly 10,000 people during a time when the city’s mayor wouldn’t even acknowledge its existence.

This year, more than 300,000 people are expected to attend what has become one of the largest Pride events in the nation, in a city that proudly hoists the rainbow flag over city hall now. The parade returns this year after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic.

At a time when LGBTQ rights are in the spotlight in Florida and elsewhere, Freisberg said, it gives organizers a renewed sense of the original mission of Pride.

“When something is founded from a place of necessity, the people who understand why it exists feel more passionate about ensuring that it endures,” she said. “Because we understand what's at stake.”

Big names have headlined several events leading up to the weekend parade, from Carson Kressley of "Queer Eye" and "RuPaul's Drag Race" fame, to comedienne Sandra Berhard and choreographer, singer and YouTuber Todrick Hall.

The parade kicks off at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 25. The route will wind from Vinoy Park to Albert Whitted Park along Bayshore Drive. Organizers say with more than 175 floats or groups, it will be the largest parade to date. 

The street carnival is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 26, in the Grand Central District, where St. Pete Pride began two decades ago.

10 Tampa Bay: Proud to be in the Bay — see related coverage: 

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