St. Pete Pride organizers predict their biggest event yet this weekend, and Pride-related activities are spreading to the east and to the south.
"This year, over the period of three days, we're planning for about a quarter of a million people," executive director Eric Skains told FOX 13 News. "Even the city of Gulfport came to us this year and said, 'We want to be part of St. Pete Pride; how can we be part of it.' And we're holding a 5K down in Gulfport."
That is the geographic growth well to the south of St. Petersburg's Grand Central Business District, still the center of Pride festivities. The Edge District is Grand Central's immediate neighbor to the east, and downtown's latest success story.
"We're up to 100 businesses in the district; 12 more opening within the next six months," said Edge executive director Barbara Voglewede.
The Edge had a slate of activities Thursday and Thursday night, including street music and merchant discounts.
"We're going to be staying open until 10 p.m. or later," McB's men's clothing store owner Kevin McBride said. "We're thinking midnight if it's really, really busy."
Skains attributed St. Pete Pride's growth to several factors: Heightened awareness and acceptance of LGBTs because of the U.S. Supreme Court rulings regarding gay marriages, moving the Pride parade from Saturday to Saturday night and the street festival to Sunday, and momentum.
"So many different people are putting their effort into this machine that just keeps building and building and building," continued, after ticking off the variety of neighborhood and business associations now involved.
Skain claimed sponsorships exceeded budget expectations by 150 percent. Reinvestments of event "profits" into other non-profit endeavors has quadrupled, from $12,000 three years ago to about $50,000 last year, "So you can see it's getting there, it's getting bigger, as far as what we're able to give back."