The Gay Pride Parade held in St. Petersburg this weekend did not draw extraordinary media coverage. In a way, that’s a good thing.
The second annual parade made its way through downtown St. Petersburg Saturday, and according to Promenade chairman Greg Stemm speaking to the St. Petersburg Times, drew a crowd of 15,000 to 20,000 people, up from last year’s 10,000.
Since gay rights have been in the news, and since the debate surrounding state-sanctioned gay marriages is bound to play a role in the last months of this election year, some controversy could have been expected.
Yet, media coverage of the event resembled the coverage of other well-established events such as the Gasparilla Pirate Fest Parade. It seems the parade is becoming part of the Bay area’s community.
This may have to do with the impact such events have on the local economy. The Times reported street vendors alone reached a number of 210 this weekend, bringing tourist dollars into the region.
This is not to say that an emphasis is being put on marketing St. Petersburg and Tampa as a “gay” destination, a technique other cities such as Philadelphia have been actively pursuing. Rather, the event has an air of “no big deal” surrounding it.
While there were some hecklers demonstrating by wearing T-shirts proclaiming, “Go to hell. Burn,” they were clearly in the vast minority.
There is still work to be done and time to pass before the gay lifestyle is as accepted as any other in the Bay area. But this weekend showed that more and more, “they” are becoming “one of us” rather than a fringe group portrayed on design-oriented cable shows.