June is Pride Month, and this year cities across the US from San Francisco to New York City have canceled their traditional Pride events due to COVID-19. Most communities are opting to host virtual Pride festivities instead, and local municipalities have had to make similar adjustments. St. Petersburg Pride, billed as Florida’s largest Pride celebration with over 260,000 attendees last year, initially planned to postpone their June observance until the fall due to coronavirus concerns. More recently, it was announced that the festivities have been canceled altogether for this year, resulting in a loss of $67 million in revenue for the local economy.
Gulfport residents and businesses, as well as the iconic Gulfport Trolley, have been a strong presence in St. Pete Pride for years but, in 2018, the city began to host its own Pride celebration in addition to participating in the St. Pete festivities. This year, plans were canceled for what would have been Gulfport’s largest Pride event yet.
“We were saddened at not having it this year. We had a big event planned with live music, an ArtOut show, vendors and more,” said Gulfport Vice Mayor Paul Ray. “But we didn’t want to plan a later event and then have to cancel that one too.”
Ray posted the news in a couple of Gulfport Facebook groups, saying there would be a virtual flag-raising ceremony instead that people could view on Facebook and YouTube (see video above). He encouraged Gulfport residents to create artwork in any medium around the theme of Pride and hang it along with flags and banners in their windows and outside their homes, apartments and condos in a strong show of community. In the true spirit of Gulfport, Ray immediately received about 50 private messages from people wanting to participate.
Hosted with Jon Ziegler, who created the Pride in Place event page on Facebook, people can view the virtual ceremony, comment, read Pride-related fun facts and post photos of their art for all to enjoy. Everyone is urged to get out their paints, markers and flags and paint the town rainbow.
Ray feels the sense of community that Pride events inspire are particularly important at this moment.
“It’s a trying time in our society There are a lot of people in the LGBTQ community who are now trapped at home alone,” he said. “We need to let them know we’re here for them. We also need to celebrate what has been done and recognize what we still need to do.”
The Pride in Place Facebook page is live now and will be available for the entire month of June.
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