Economic Impact of Pride

During the month of June, from downtown St. Petersburg to the Pinellas County beaches,  a mix of locals and visitors are expected to spend money at bars and restaurants, stay in hotels and other lodgings, and enjoy our sugar-sand beaches.

St. Pete Pride’s impact on tourism and the hospitality industry has seen marked growth over the years. Visit St. Pete Clearwater, the region’s tourism marketing arm, commissioned a study of the three-day 2019 Pride weekend in order to calculate the economic impact to Pinellas County.

According to the report:  Over three days, an estimated 265,180 people attended a Pride event;  over one-third of non-local attendees surveyed stayed overnight, with just over half of them staying in a hotel, motel or short term rental for an average of three nights.

Nearly 90 percent of attendees lived outside Pinellas County, with 85 percent living in Florida, 14.8 percent from other states and 1.8 percent were international visitors.

It is estimated that the Pride weekend generated $42,507,299 in new visitor spending in the St. Pete/Clearwater area. Add in spending by organizers and sponsors and the estimated economic impact was $44,286,248; this does not include tax revenue generated or sectors that profited indirectly. When those figures are added, the total economic impact is closer to $67,231,244, according to the report.

“This makes Pride one of the largest economic driver events in the region after the Grand Prix,” says City representative Jim Nixon.   

St. Pete Pride

Starting out as one-day event, St. Pete pride now spans an entire month as a city wide celebration and tourism draw.

By Marcia Biggs

GRAND
Kitchen + Bath

Renovations + Designs + Installation

Pull out those rainbow flags and get ready — there’s going to be a lot of celebrating this June when St. Pete Pride marks its 20th anniversary.

After a cancelled festival due to Covid in 2020, a re-imagined month-long celebration took place in 2021 with a special emphasis on outdoor events. This year, organizers are once again extending the event throughout June (Pride Month), culminating in a grand finale weekend June 24-26. Festivities will include a Friday night concert with a national headliner, the highly anticipated St. Pete Pride Parade on Saturday, and a street carnival on Sunday in the Grand Central District with blocks of musical entertainment, vendors and activities for the entire family.

Considered the largest Pride celebration in the Southeast, St. Pete Pride is expected to draw  some 250,000 people to the region over the month.  At the helm is the St. Pete Pride non-profit organization, with its mission to produce inclusive cultural events, educational programs, and advocacy for the LGBTQ community. A dedicated board of directors is at its core, and countless volunteers of all ages and genders work to make things happen. Strong

support from St. Pete political officials, small businesses and other non-profit groups and organizations is invaluable.

“We are a diverse group of individuals who have come together, committed to helping St. Pete Pride continue to better serve and support the LGBTQ community,” explains Nicole Berman, who arrived in January from the Seattle area to take over the reigns as executive director. (The role has been filled on and off throughout the years.)

SPL sat down recently with three leaders in the St. Pete Pride effort – Berman, Pride President Tiffany Freisberg, and Jim Nixon, the city’s LGBTQ liaison since 2016 – to get  a deeper perspective on how St. Pete Pride was established and how it has become an integral part of our city’s identity and spirit.

Pride President Tiffany Freisberg is proud of the accomplishments of St. Pete Pride.  “We are first and foremost a cultural  institution with a goal of making sure that the spirit of Pride is year-round,” she says.  “Our board is a coalition of diverse individuals with passion and diversity of thought. Our biggest criteria  was an organization of people who are genuinely committed to the mission and willing to put in the time and effort to grow St. Pete Pride  into what it deserves to be.”

History of Pride

In 2003, when Tampa’s pride parade was effectively shut down by city officials, the St. Petersburg community picked up the torch with a  “Pride Promenade.”

“A group of local activists got together with the support of Rick Kriseman, who was a city councilman back then, and convinced the City to hold a parade in Grand Central District,” recalls Nixon.  “Back then, the celebration was just one day, with the night-time Pride Parade the centerpiece event, maybe several thousand attended.”

By 2012, an estimated 100,000 people attended Pride and the following year, Mayor Bill Foster proclaimed June as LGBT Pride Month in St. Pete.  The festival expanded to two days in 2014, and St. Pete Pride formalized the CommUnity Grants Program, which awarded $25,000 in community funding in its first year.

Jim Nixon credits both mayors Foster and Kriseman for supporting the event as a celebration for the entire city.  Throughout his two terms, Kriseman was largely involved, showing up at local businesses with Pride flags and promoting the event. “His first year in office in 2014 he signed the Proclamation of Pride which put  into place 11 policies that were LGBTQ inclusive, and one was for the City to support financially and sponsor St. Pete Pride,” said Nixon.

Nixon points out other local officials who played a support role by coming out and promoting  St. Pete Pride as a community event for everyone, not just for the LGBTQ community. “Support in City Council has been very helpful  –  Steve Kornell was the first LGBTQ City Council member, later there was Amy Foster and Darden Rice.”

“We have raised the Pride flag every June 1 since 2014 outside City Hall,” relates Nixon.  “Pride was cancelled in 2020. But we lit up businesses along the waterfront in rainbow colors, including The Pier, Tropicana Field  and the Museum of Fine Arts. We celebrated Pride visually.”

St. Pete Pride is a city pride event, not just a gay pride event, says Jim Nixon. “We have everybody in our city celebrating the diversity of our city.  You have parents, and grandparents and children all coming to  wave flags, and close to 400 vendors, mostly local small businesses.

“We hear from a lot of people how much they are excited to be there and support the community. Especially when you look at the recent (“Don’t Say Gay”) legislation that’s being passed, Florida is really getting a lot of attention. We think this will just give us more visibility .”

Executive Director Berman adds:  “We’re really excited this year because when you think about what Pride represents, beyond being a citywide celebration, it’s about love. It’s about positivity, it’s about sunshine. And when you think about what’s happened in the last  year, we think this year will  be the largest Pride ever.”

St. Pete Pride Main Events

May 22 – Miss St. Pete Pride, 5 pm, Coastal Creative
June 1 – 20th Anniversary Kickoff Party, Sirata on St. Pete Beach
June 11 – Queer-E-Okee Concert, Palladium

June 17 – Stonewall Reception, The James Museum
June 18 – LGBTQ+ Youth & Family Day, North and South Straub Park
June 19 – Juneteenth, North and South Straub Park
June 24 – Pride Concert, Downtown St. Pete
June 25 -  St. Pete Pride Parade

June 26 – Pride in Grand Central Street Carnival

For updates on events and more information, go to stpetepride.org.