Peace, Love, and Conflict Prevail at St Pete Pride 2018

Over 200,000 people were estimated to attend the 2018 St Pete Pride Parade and celebration on Saturday June 23, 2018

Peace, Love, and Conflict Prevail at St Pete Pride

The 2018 St Pete Pride festival is sweltering in the mid 90's and packed with sweaty energetic people on Saturday. The air is filled with a mixture of weed, sunscreen, and fading cheap body spray. The atmosphere is sexually charged by low cut sometimes absent tops mixed with painted body parts and a lot of hugging, kissing and drinking. Bun revealing cut-off shorts, fish net stockings, rainbow tutus and slogan t-shirts rule the day, but there's a lot of individual style going on as well. Drag queens, goth dressers, and anime characters flourish here. Add some great musical entertainment and the scene is a dream for a photographer like me.

Pride events nationwide are held out as preeminent celebrations of diversity and acceptance ostensibly resulting in  "you-do-you" permission. And for the most part St. Pete Pride is no different. However this year there is a stronger presence of intolerance from attendees about religious righteousness and especially in the political arena.  One might assume it's a result of the remarkable national divide along political lines given the current climate, but the irony of the lack of compassion for, and acceptance of, alternative views from Pride goers isn't lost on this writer. As long as I can remember religious zealots proselytizing about the sins and wickedness of the LGBTQ community have been a part of the mix. Their signs are provocative and engaging and a small percentage of walkers-by enjoy some finger pointing back-and-forth. But I've never seen physical contact to the extreme I saw this year where a sign carrying Christian preacher was pulled to the ground and had to be rescued by St Pete police. He was okay and left most likely for his own safety. It's just such a contrast to the gay affirming churches marching in the Pride parade carrying signs of acceptance and love, mixed with the ever present demand for equality and diversity that is one of the cornerstones of Pride celebrations.

In North Straub Park in St Petersburg  people attending Pride react to a sign condemning to hell those who do not repent

A tussle lands the sign carrier on the ground bringing a response from two St Pete Police officers

 The man is helped to his feet

The man is helped to his feet

 Soon after the ruckus, two sign carriers leave the park

Soon after the ruckus, two sign carriers leave the park

The LGBTQ community is a powerful one politically, especially in these parts. Politicians are historically part of the mix in the St Pete Pride, either through their attendance or avoidance of the event. Republican Mayor Rick Baker notoriously refused to sign a Pride proclamation for St Pete in 2009 and would not take part in the event. He was again defeated in a re-election bid in 2017 by the current Mayer Rick Kriseman.

As the fest has gained in popularity bunches of incumbents and wanna-be politicos show up understanding the importance of the LGBTQ vote. Polarized political banter is super amped up this year given the divisive daily headlines of national news from the White House. A contingent of folks wearing Gays For Trump T-shirts were seen walking through the celebration and talking about how the current administration is tolerant and pro-gay. Yes, they got some push back. Others wore derisive anti-Trump slogans on their clothes and wrote snide messages about the current administration and policy.

St Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman with his wife Kerry Kriseman march down Beach Drive. The pair, along with Congressman Charlie Crist made two appearances on Saturday.  Once in front of the TransMarch and again in the main parade

 United States Congressman Charlie Crist is in attendance along with a strong contingent of Crist sign carriers.

United States Congressman Charlie Crist is in attendance along with a strong contingent of Crist sign carriers.

As the event has grown, so have the number of national brands and corporate sponsorship  trying to capture the demographic. Ostensibly it helps not only with recruiting but also with brand loyalty at a retail level. Companies such as Macy's have been along for the ride for a number of years. Clearwater based Tech Data produced over 700 marchers this year, some flown in from out of town, for the event according to news reports. However, from my years of covering the event, corporations have taken over the visual dominance of the parade by sponsoring the largest units, losing a great deal of local panache and flavor. Here, as in so much of our culture, money rules I suppose.

Here's what I saw. 

 As a major event sponsor, Clearwater based Tech Data had over 700 representatives marching

As a major event sponsor, Clearwater based Tech Data had over 700 representatives marching

According to project staff member Carrie Boucher, The Nomad Art Bus is a non-profit art project promoted by art educators for art enrichment, especially for the underprivileged or those who aren't typically exposed to art. Based in St Pete the project isn't so much about training artists as it is teaching people the freedom of artistic expression. Folks at St Pete Pride 2018 had a lot to say!

 Elliot and Caleb rock their Goth best at the 2018 St Pete Pride celebration

Elliot and Caleb rock their Goth best at the 2018 St Pete Pride celebration

 Brittany Baldwin Brown, one of 3 vocalists for Divine AF, delivers a soulful version of Princes  Purple Rain

Brittany Baldwin Brown, one of 3 vocalists for Divine AF, delivers a soulful version of Princes Purple Rain

 Festival goers dance to the beat of DJ L Mo in sweltering heat at Straub Park during the 2018 St Pete Pride Fest

Festival goers dance to the beat of DJ L Mo in sweltering heat at Straub Park during the 2018 St Pete Pride Fest

 Perhaps this is the winning slogan for a 2020 presidential campaign

Perhaps this is the winning slogan for a 2020 presidential campaign

 After taking her picture I asked her what her shirt meant. She told me there are far too many miserable people bringing negative energy around her and she wants them to keep their negatives asses away! Pot and kettle?

After taking her picture I asked her what her shirt meant. She told me there are far too many miserable people bringing negative energy around her and she wants them to keep their negatives asses away! Pot and kettle?

 This is more emblematic of the spirit of Pride week as I know it. Drew hands out hugs for the asking

This is more emblematic of the spirit of Pride week as I know it. Drew hands out hugs for the asking

 Devin gets a spray tattoo at the Morgan Malice tent with a sentiment heard often repeated at Saturday's gay pride event.

Devin gets a spray tattoo at the Morgan Malice tent with a sentiment heard often repeated at Saturday's gay pride event.

 Both of these charmers in floral headdress hail from Washington state and are attending their first Pride event

Both of these charmers in floral headdress hail from Washington state and are attending their first Pride event

Like last year, the 2018 parade was broken down into two elements. Wearing Assume Nothing T-shirts The 2018 TransPride March kicked off the parade with the main event following

 Wearing Assume Nothing T-shirts the 2018 TransPride March kicked off the parade festivities at 7 PM

Wearing Assume Nothing T-shirts the 2018 TransPride March kicked off the parade festivities at 7 PM

 The main event followed the march at 7:30 and featured groups like Werk Colorguard

The main event followed the march at 7:30 and featured groups like Werk Colorguard

 Yes, even storm troopers and took part. Here the 501st Special Ops contingent present Shadow Stormtroopers, Shadow Scouts, Magma Stormtroopers, Nova and Nova Elite Stormtroopers, showing their pride

Yes, even storm troopers and took part. Here the 501st Special Ops contingent present Shadow Stormtroopers, Shadow Scouts, Magma Stormtroopers, Nova and Nova Elite Stormtroopers, showing their pride

 Several religious organizations promote love and denounce hate as part of their message. Here the Cathedral Church of St. Peter shares it's word.

Several religious organizations promote love and denounce hate as part of their message. Here the Cathedral Church of St. Peter shares it's word.


The celebration continues on Sunday June 24 on Central Avenue in downtown St Pete.

Pride 2018 map.jpg