Friday night, October 11, Brian Longstreth and Jim Woodfield, board members for Come Out St. Pete, sat comfortably inside St. Pete’s Grand Central District’s Metro LGBTQ Welcome Center, sipped on cocktails and reflected on a year’s worth of planning.
In tandem with National Coming Out Day, October 11, Come Out St. Pete, an organization that advocates for community awareness and acceptance of all sexual orientations and gender identities, hosted 12 events between October 3 and October 11.
“Coming Out Day isn’t as flashy [as Pride] but it’s more effective at changing the hearts and minds of family, friends and coworkers,” said Longstreth. “It can change their minds easier than having a big flashy parade.”
The week of events brought hundreds of visitors to the Grand Central District to support the community.
Major events included a day parade, which has doubled in size since their first parade in 2018, and a sidewalk festival highlighting local vendors and businesses.
The growth has also spurred a need for more volunteers and organizers.
“We’re looking to share the efforts and the wealth of benefiting the community,” said Longstreth of furture events.
All are welcome but, Longstreth, says, the focus remains local. “We’re not as geared to bringing people from out of town, but from within the local community.”
“We just want to grow,” said Woodfield. “We want to get the message out about the whole concept of coming out. We want to emulate Harvey Milk and show the importance of coming out and declaring to the world who we really are.”
Longstreth and other members are looking to raise more awareness for Come Out St. Pete. Plans involve reaching out to area schools and working with their Gay Straight Alliance groups.
Next year’s Come Out St. Pete parade and festival is set for October 17. Find more at comeoutstpete.org.